One of the delights of having a twelve-year-old son (other than having someone else who can now collect the household trash and put away the laundry) is that it exposes me to some literary gems that have heretofore escaped my own reading. The Cay is one such book.
Set in the Caribbean during WWII, The Cay tells the story of Phillip Enright, a twelve-year-old boy who is torn from his mother and suddenly blinded when their boat is torpedoed off the coast of Curacao. He finds himself aboard a raft with Timothy, an old Jamaican man who serves as a father figure and Phillip's protector. When the two happen across a small island in the Caymans, it is Phillip who learns important life lessons about racism, sacrifice, and personal responsibility as they battle starvation and a hurricane, awaiting rescue all the while.
Beautifully written in a simple style, with action a-plenty told at a brisk pacing, The Cay is obviously an excellent novel for middle-schoolers. And there's just enough symbolism and social commentary to make this a wonderful introduction to the realm of literary analysis for youngsters.
My son just finished reading this novel in his Language Arts class and, with me reading it concurrently, it has given the two of us some opportunities for wonderful literary discussion! = )