Phillip remembers little of life in Virginia. He was seven when his father took a job on Curaçao, an island in the Caribbean. His mother, however, has remained homesick these past four years. Thus, when German submarines are sighted off the coast, she decides it is time to take Phillip back to the States. Although he would rather stay with his father and friends, he has no choice.
Phillip and his mother board the S.S. Hato, but never make it to Virginia. A German submarine torpedoes the ship, and in the confusion of lifeboats and passengers, Phillip receives a sharp blow to the head and is knocked unconscious. When he awakes, he finds himself adrift on a raft, with a large, African-American man named Timothy. Eventually the pair arrives on a small unchartered cay, but not until after disagreements about rationing supplies and the complete loss of Phillip’s vision. They spend several months together, all the while Timothy teaching Phillip how to survive on a desert island—without his eyesight.
Theodore Taylor’s timeless story of survival demonstrates that sometimes one sees better with the heart than with the eyes. Phillip brings his prejudices and ignorance with him to the cay. Timothy’s deep compassion and wisdom gently help the boy to shed those preconceived and unjust perspectives, and gradually, Philip learns what it means to be truly human.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.