Lesson 1: Story Context

Getting Started

Materials: "Timeline of American History"*
It is important to know that Cay is pronounced "key." This is where the word "key" as in the Florida Keys comes from. This adventure book will take you on an incredible journey where two very different people are forced to survive in harsh conditions together.

Before you begin reading, today you will learn more about the setting and context of the story. The story takes place during World War II, a war fought among many different countries, including the United States, between the years of 1939 and 1945. The German leader, Hitler, was waging war on European countries in order to take control of them. Along the way, he was killing many innocent people. He joined forces with the Japanese, and they attacked many European countries and an American ship in Pearl Harbor. You will learn more about World War II next year. If you are using the "Timeline of American History," put the beginning and ending dates for World War II.

Phillip, the main character of the book, is American. However, he is living on a small Caribbean island called Curacao during the war. Curacao is an island governed by the Netherlands. Many islands in the Caribbean were governed by European nations during this time.

Stuff You Need

  • "Timeline of American History"* (optional)
  • colored pencils or markers* (Activity 2 - Option 1)
  • journal
  • map of South America and the surrounding islands

* - denotes an optional material that may or may not be needed

Ideas to Think About

  • How are countries and groups of people interdependent?
  • In what ways have diverse groups of people suffered discrimination?

Things to Know

  • Nations fighting against the United States in World War II were called Axis Powers.
  • Nations fighting against the Axis powers were called Allied Powers, which included the U.S.
  • Curacao is part of the Dutch Islands found off the coast of Venezuela.


  • Recognize the impact of war on a nation. (SS)
  • Analyze and integrate information from one or more sources including graphs, charts, and maps to expand understanding of text. (LA)

Introducing the Lesson

Explain to your child that in this lesson he will learn some important background information that will help him better understand the novel The Cay. Tell your child that the novel is set during World War II.