The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time is a much talked-about book. Ignore the different releases - one for children and another for adults. They are irrelevant. It's a serious children's book although adults could also take something from it. Beginning as a whodunnit, Curious Incident transforms into a powerful work on the family and on fitting in. Bookbag thinks it's a tour de force.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 279 Date: April 2004
Publisher: Red Fox
ISBN: 0099456761

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A Times Educational Supplement Teachers' Top 100 Book

This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them. Here is a joke, as an example. It is one of father's. His face was drawn but the curtains were real. I know why this is meant to be funny. I asked. It is because drawn has three meanings, and they are (1) drawn with a pencil, (2) exhausted, and (3) pulled across a window, and meaning 1 refers to both the face and the curtains, meaning 2 refers only to the face and meaning 3 refers only to the curtains.

Christopher Boone is fifteen years old. He has Asperger's syndrome. He lives with his father, goes to a special school, and has never been out by himself further than the sweet shop at the end of his street. He knows his father loves him, but Christopher can't bear to be touched. So between them, they have developed a sign. When Christopher's father holds out his hand with fingers spread, it is a message to tell him he loves him and wants to give him a hug. And at these times, Christopher holds out his hand too, and allows his fingers to touch those of his father. Christopher likes lists, numbers, patterns and Sherlock Holmes. He hates the colours yellow and brown and also people who tell lies. He finds people confusing. Sometimes, his mind gets overloaded by confusion and this is when he starts to groan and knock his head against the wall. Occasionally, he hits people. Christopher is painfully honest and direct about his life and the person he trusts most is Siobhan, who works with him at school. He sets great store by the things she says.

At 7 minutes after midnight one evening, Christopher finds a dead dog:

The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog... I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

And Christopher likes to be certain. And he decides to try to emulate his hero, Sherlock Homes, and solve the case of the Dog in the Night Time. And he decides to write a book all about it, with Siobhan's help. And as he laboriously investigates and as he begins to piece together the facts of the case, so does Christopher Boone begin to piece together many things he'd never before suspected, about his life, about his father, about his dead mother, and about a lot of sad, sad things indeed...

I don't want to say a great deal more about this book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. I just want you to read it - but I do want to say that this is overwhelmingly a book for children. It's not a "crossover" book. It's a book for children that also has something to say to adults. Take no notice of the marketing. It doesn't matter whether you buy the "adult" edition or the "children's" edition. Structurally, it's perfect. Characters are well-drawn. Relationships are complex and accurate. Beginning - in Christopher's mind - as a whodunnit, Sherlock Holmes-style mystery and developing rapidly into a study of a family in crisis, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time works on all levels. It's enlightening, it's heart-rending and it has about it that shining simplicity of work with a universal truth at its core. You will laugh. And you will cry. And hopefully, you will consider that truth. It would make a wonderful set text in any Year Six and above class in literacy, social studies or citizenship and yet it's not didactic or preachy.

You know, the buzz word in the special needs education profession is inclusion. It's not tolerance. Life is easier if you're normal, average, in any sphere. It's easier to be right-handed than left-handed because all the utensils and tools are made for you to use. It's easier to be a perfect size 12 than a size 6 or a size 20, because all the shops sell clothes that will fit you. And on a level so crucial in showing the way that our society really fails its different people, it's so much easier NOT having autism or Asperger's than having it. And we, as a society, must face up to the fact that people whose lives aren't easy are going to have a harder time being happy. This can't be right. It's not just down to family. It's not just down to special schools. It's not just down to the authorities. It's down to you and it's down to me, and it's down to our children too. We must find a way to stop tolerating these different people. We must learn to include everyone. In my opinion, they have their buzz word just right.

This is just a story, I know. It's a story for children. But stories worm their way into our imaginations and from there they nibble at the core of our most serious beliefs. And that is such an important thing, particularly for children. Via books such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, they are able to test their thoughts, beliefs and values. They can live, vicariously, as another. And in my book, there's little more inclusive than that.

Buy it, borrow it, or steal it: just read it.

For another book about the difficulties of fitting in, try our review of Boy by Roald Dahl. John Elder Robison's autobiography Look Me In The Eye is also well worth reading.

Booklists.jpg The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is in the Most Read Reviews On Bookbag.
Booklists.jpg The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is in the Top Ten Beach Reads For Teens.
Booklists.jpg The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon is in the Top Ten Children's Books About Weighty Subjects.
Buy The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon at Amazon.com.


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Dididave said:

I was a little underwhelmed. Maybe it was because of the hype but other than Christopher, the characters were very one-dimensional. However, the difficult relationship between him and his father does make this well worth a read and just for the style and approach everyone should give this a go!

kcoate said:

I love this book and I am not a child!! I've read it twice, it's funny and sad, it makes you think and see things in another light, I couldnt wait to see what happened at the end then I didnt want it to finish! I think its a book for adults and children.

Ibotfield said:

Hi, I enjoyed reading your review, found it to be quite accurate (if a little on the long side - sorry!) to the book which I read a couple of weeks ago.

The story is an interesting one, its not a bog standard run of the mill kids book - it provides an insight into how people who aren't given the tag "normal" see and interact in the world.

Kell Smurthwaite said:

Haddon has a way of drawing the reader into the characters, especially that of Christopher, the focus & narrator of the story, who he has written so well that identifying with him & his problems becomes easy, even if those problems are uncomfortable to deal with. Autism is a difficult subject to tackle due to the preconceived ideas many people have, but it has been mastered artfully here & I felt that Haddon was completely in control with incredibly well-researched material. It felt real - compellingly so.

In the end, I think the main message of this story is universal: Limits are self-imposed & when we have to courage to push the boundaries, we open ourselves to new possibilities & find that we can accomplish anything.

Jan Lindqvist, Librarian, Sweden said:

It's a great read, and listening to the talanted Ben Tibber on the superb audiobook adds yet another dimension.