At age 72, Theodore Taylor's wife and son reminded him that the "clock is ticking" so he finally wrote the prequel-sequel to his most widely known book The Cay. Now a strong 81, he is touring the country, signing thousands of copies of The Cay and Timothy of the Cay, and spending time with his legions of fans. Yes, legions. He received more than 200,000 letters requesting a sequel to The Cay.
Ted began writing at the age of thirteen when he was paid by the Portsmouth Star for reporting on athletics at his high school. Growing up during the depression forced him to take lots of odd jobs. This diverse experience afforded lots of opportunity to observe those around him. His education was enhanced through service in the merchant marine and U.S. Navy. All of these experiences have provided a great storehouse of information for him to draw upon. They have been further augmented by years of researching and writing newspapers columns, books, radio, TV and film scripts. He even worked in Hollywood as a press agent and associate film producer. One of his better known films was Tora! Tora! Tora!
Among his award winning books for young readers are The Weirdo (1991, Harcourt, Ages 12 up, $15.95) which won the Mystery Writers Association Edgar Allan Poe Award. Sniper (1989, Harcourt, Ages 12 up, $14.95 and $3.99 pap.) an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, also received the California Young Readers Medal and the Society of School Librarians International Best award. The Cay received eleven literary awards and has sold over two million copies. As a former newspaperman, he does extensive research for his books. He also claims that he is still learning the three C's of good storytelling: character, conflict and construction.
When I asked Ted about his next book, he indicated that he was working on a story about the Bikini islanders. It is not a happy story, and the third C "construction" seems to be eluding him. Ted Taylor wears his age well, and I believe there are a lot more ticks on his clock and more exciting books to come.
This unusual novel tells the story of the 1946 atomic bomb tests on the island of Bikini through the eyes of a teenage boy. Sorry Rinamu and his fellow islanders feel grateful to the American soldiers for defeating the Japanese, who had been mistreating them. Two years later, when the islanders learn that the Americans want to test their horrific new bomb in Bikini atoll, the islanders do not feel they can refuse to relocate. But Sorry's uncle Abram devises a protest plan: he will paint a canoe red and sail it into Bikini atoll right before the bomb is to drop. He hopes the airplanes will see the canoe and stop the bombing. When Abram dies suddenly, Sorry, schoolteacher Tara Malolo, and Sorry's grandfather Jonjen carry out the plan themselves-with the result that they are killed instantly when the bomb hits. The book is interspersed with an atomic bomb timeline and a factual epilogue that details the hardships the islanders faced after the bomb. Author Taylor, who was a deck officer during the Bikini testing, has written a fascinating novel that brings home the absurdity and tragedy of the atomic bomb tests. 1995, Harcourt Brace and Avon, Ages 12 up, $15.00 and $4.50. Reviewer: Jyotsna Sreenivasan
Taylor's first novel for young readers, The Cay, is the story of a boy's life-threatening adventure at sea in 1942 after his freighter, the Hato, is torpedoed by a German submarine. In his quest for survival, the boy must overcome his racial and cultural prejudices, as well as a serious physical disability in this Robinson Crusoe setting. More than twenty years passed before Taylor produced the prequel-sequel, Timothy of the Cay. The two stories make for compelling reading, and the events, characters and setting are still very much of relevance today. After reading the first, the second expands on the adventure. There is also a study guide for teachers and homeschoolers and a workbook edition. 1987 (orig. 1969), Doubleday, Ages 10 up, $15.95 and $4.50. Reviewer: Beth Shotwell-Valeo
The Flight of Jesse Leroy Brown
Jesse Leroy Brown, who broke down racial barriers to become the first black man to enter the Naval Air Training School and the first black man to fly a Navy fighter and make a carrier landing, is brought to life in this thorough, well-researched biography. The author explains in the preface, how he reconstructed dialogue in the book from tapes, letters and interviews with people who knew him. Twenty-eight chapters chronicle Brown's life from his childhood in Mississippi to his years of training in Naval aviation in Pensacola, Florida, to his heroic actions in the Korean War. Because of its length (300 pages) and density, this book would probably appeal most to more mature readers or those especially interested in aviation and the Navy. An index and black and white photos are included. 1998, Avon, Ages 12 up, $23.00. Reviewer: Gisela Jernigan
Taylor, of The Cay fame, here collects his short stories of the sea. A few, like the title story, concern teenage adventures and seem to have been written for this anthology. The lion's share, however, have appeared before, primarily in Argosy magazine. It is these latter stories written in the fifties and sixties for an adult male audience that have a ring of truth, a smell of the sea about them. "Hauling Gold" convincingly recounts a plan to steal a shipload of bullion from the Bank of South Africa, while "The O Tannenbaum Affair" takes the reader back to the submarine warfare and espionage efforts of World War II. At their best, Taylor's stories are cool, rational, and effective. 1996, Harcourt Brace, Ages 10 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
Timothy of the Cay
Taylor's first novel for young readers, The Cay, is the story of a boy's life-threatening adventure at sea in 1942 after his freighter, the Hato, is torpedoed by a German submarine. In his quest for survival, the boy must overcome his racial and cultural prejudices, as well as a serious physical disability in this Robinson Crusoe setting. More than twenty years passed before Taylor produced the prequel-sequel, Timothy of the Cay. The two stories make for compelling reading, and the events, characters and setting are still very much of relevance today. After reading the first, the second expands on the adventure. 1993, Harcourt Brace, Ages 10 up, $14.00, $4.50 and $3.99. Reviewer: Beth Shotwell-Valeo
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