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

CuriousincidentofdoginnighttimeBibliographic Information:

Haddon, M. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. New York: Doubleday.(0-385-65980-6)

Plot Summary:

Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone finds the murdered body of Wellington, his neighbour’s poodle, late one evening. He liked Wellington and thinks that his killer should be punished so he decides to find out who killed the dog. The reader learns the subsequent tale through the book Christopher writes chronicling the investigation and the events that transpire as a result of his investigation. Although never stated, by following the story through Christopher’s point of view, the reader is led to understand that Christopher is an autistic teenager.

Critical Evaluation:

Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been included as a text in many high school English programs for good reason. Haddon has created a work that covers a wide variety of themes and literary devices. His character of Christopher also provides great fodder for conversations about first person narrative and the concept of the “naïve narrator.”

Kunze (2010) in his article about the novel also suggests the novel is an excellent example of metafiction since the novel is shaped as the mystery story that Christopher was writing as a school project. The idea of truth and lie/real and fiction are further developed by Christopher as he tries to understand concepts of metaphor and meaning that is often inferred in language by context, emotion, and body language. As the novel progresses, this duality is further emphasized in his relationship with his father when Christopher learns his father had lied to him to protect him from some difficult news.

As an autistic teenager, Christopher struggles to understand his world through the rational. He likes mathematics because he can understand the patterns. So, he tries to find the patterns in the world around him; 4 red cars in a row make a Good Day, 5 red cars make a Super Great Day but 4 yellow cars in a row make a Black Day. He struggles to understand the emotional context of language and the interactions humans have.

Although in the extreme, these concerns are common to all people, particularly teenagers. We all struggle to interpret the cues we are given in language. I think this is one reason that this novel resonates so strongly with such a wide population. There’s a little Christopher in all of us.


Reader’s Annotation:

The death of a neighbour’s dog leads an autistic teenager on a perilous journey.

Information About the Author:

Mark Haddon is an artist, novelist, screenwriter, and poet. He was born September 26, 1962 in Northampton, England. He studied in Oxford University and later earned his master’s degree in English literature at Edinburgh University. In Scotland, he worked at Mencap (Kunze, 2010), an organization that supports people with disabilities in the community.

He has also created illustrations and cartoons for magazines and newspapers. He has also made a living painting and selling abstract art.

He wrote his first children’s book in 1987. Since then he has written and illustrated over fifteen books for children. He has also written for a number of children’s series for the BBC. In 1999 he won two BAFTAs (British Academy of Film and Television Awards), one of which was an award for his contribution to children’s television.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was the first book Haddon intentionally wrote for adults. It is the first book to have been published simultaneously in two imprints – one for children and one for adults in England. His poetry collection, The Talking Horse and the Sad Girl and the Village Under the Sea was published in 2005.

For more information please see Mark Haddon’s website.

Genre:

  • Realistic novel
  • Mystery novel

Curriculum Ties:

  • English course
    • Point of view
    • Character development
    • Independence
  • Social Justice
    • People with special needs

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Read part of the book and ask the students to describe the narrator
  • Read the scene with Christopher fights with his dad. Talk about how hard it be be to parent a child with Aspergers
  • People with disabilities
  • Autism – What is Asperger’s
  • Murder mysteries

Reading Level/Interest Age:

  • Ages 14 and up

Challenge Issues:

  • N/A

Why did you include this book?:

My original reason for reading the book was that my daughter (then 17) recommended it to me. I think is it is a great example of a crossover book. I also think Haddon has created an compelling character in Christopher

Reviews:

  • The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Book). (2003). Kirkus Reviews, 71(8), 557.
  • Hoffert, B. (2004). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time Time (Book). Library Journal, 129(1), 49. (Best books of 2003 section)
  • Huntley, K. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Book). Booklist, 99(15), 1376.

Awards:

  • 2005 British Book Awards Book of the Year, shortlist
  • 2004 Alex Award
  • 2004 WH Smith Award for Fiction, shortlist
  • 2004 South Bank Show Annual Award for Literature
  • 2003 Whitbread Novel Award
  • 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year
  • 2003 Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize
  • 2003 Carnegie Medal, shortlist
  • 2003 British Book Awards Literary Fiction Award
  • 2003 British Book Awards Children’s Book of the Year
  • 2003 British Book Awards Book of the Year, shortlist
  • 2003 British Book Awards Author of the Year,shortlist
  • 2003 Booktrust Teenage Prize

References:

Author: Mark Haddon. Retrieved from http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/authors/mark-haddon

Kunze, P. (2010). Haddon, Mark. In G. Hamilton & B. Jones (Authors), Encyclopedia of contemporary writers and their work. Retrieved from Bloom’s Literary Reference Online database.“

Kunze, P. (2010). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. In G. Hamilton & B. Jones (Authors), Encyclopedia of contemporary writers and their work. Retrieved from Bloom’s Literary Reference Online database.“

Mark Haddon (2013). Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Haddon

Writers: Mark Haddon. Retrieved from http://literature.britishcouncil.org/mark-haddon

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: