The Cay

Meet Theodore Taylor

Taylor was born in North Carolina and thought of himself as strongly rooted in that quiet "red clay" country by the Catawba River, though he has worked and lived in many places around the world. He began writing at the age of thirteen, covering high school sports events for the Portsmouth, Virginia, Evening Star.

His life’s adventures took him to wild and woolly places among them boxing rings, the press room of some of the world’s best newspapers, exotic lands, the high seas, and Hollywood movie sets. During World War II, he first served as a cadet-AB seaman on a gasoline tanker, first of four merchant ships; then became a naval officer in the Pacific Theater. He collected scraps of stories and interesting characters along the way. As you read his books, you will go along on many of those adventures and meet memorable people (and animals). He often said, “I don’t have much of an imagination.” We never did believe him.

On October 26, 2006, Theodore Taylor passed away in his beloved “house in the woods” in Laguna Beach, California. He was surrounded by his family, his books and years of wonderful memories.


Where did the story come from?

Hear a little bit about the inspiration for the story in
the author's own words.

The Setting

What is a cay?

A cay (kA or kE) is a small, low-elevation, sandy island formed on the surface of coral reefs. Cays occur in tropical environments throughout the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans (including in the Caribbean), where they provide habitable and agricultural land for hundreds of thousands of people. Their surrounding reef ecosystems also provide food and building materials for island inhabitants.

A cay is formed when ocean currents transport loose sediment across the surface of a reef where the currents slow or converge, releasing their sediment load. Gradually, layers of deposited sediment build up on the reef surface.


Our story begins in the town of Willemstad on the island of Curacao, located in the Caribbean Sea. Study the maps below to get an understanding of the story's location.


The Caribbean

World War II

World War II was fought between two groups of nations known as the Allies (United States, England, the Soviet Union) and the Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan). The war began in 1939 and ended in 1945. Early on, the war was fought primarily in Europe with America just serving as a support for her friends. But America became actively involved in the fighting after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941.


What is dialect?

A dialect is a particular form of a language or way of speaking that is peculiar to a specific region or group of people. In our story, Timothy speaks English with a Caribbean dialect. It often involves dropping beginning or ending consonants and replacing consonants (like d for th). Can you tell what Timothy is saying here?

"I tink dat be true, young bahss."

"D'palm mat is veree easy. Jus' ovah an' unda..."

"You'ave done widout d'eye what I couldn't do wid my whole body."

Additional information at