Haddon, M. (2003). The curious incident of the dog in the night-time. New York: Doubleday.(0-385-65980-6)
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.
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.
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.
- Realistic novel
- Mystery novel
- English course
- Point of view
- Character development
- Social Justice
- People with special needs
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
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
Zusak, M. (2006). The book thief. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. (978-0375842207)
Liesel Meminger is learning to live with a new foster family in a small town in Germany during World War II. In many ways, Liesel is a typical child; she fights with boys, she makes friends, struggles with loss and how to understand a world going mad around her.
She is also a book thief. After her stepfather, Hans Hubermann notices the first book she stole, The Grave Digger’s Handbook, he decides to teach her how to read and write thus cementing the growing bond between the pair and helping Liesel feel like she belongs. Books continue to help Liesel relate to her community and her neighbours through the ensuring years.
When the son of a Jewish friend, Max Vandenburg, needs a place to hide, the Hubermanns bring him to live in their basement. Liesel soon befriends the confused and frightened young man. Their friendship is tested when the Hubermanns decide to send him away when a kind act performed by Hans brings them to the notice of the Nazis.
The lyrical quality of Zusak’s writing immediately captivated me. The mood of this sophisticated story is wistful and intriguing; much like how the narrator feels about the humans he walks among. Zusak’s use of language is beautiful and absolutely necessary for a book that is, fundamentally, about the power of words. Death as the narrator is a convention that is used very successfully in The Book Thief. One could write a paper just on the character of Death. Using Death as a narrator does allow the author a certain latitude with the timeline.
To begin with, Death is relating this as a story already lived. As a result, there is a lot of foreshadowing since Death already knows the outcome. The fluid nature of time also fits very well with the episodic nature of the story. Because the plot covers a number of years, it is necessary to have a natural reason to skip to the important episodes or events. Death’s visiting of this town and checking in on Liesel provides an excellent reason for the pacing of the novel. Another interesting result of having Death as a narrator is that the reader is able to see at a macro level, the scope of the War, and at the micro level of individual lives in a small town in Germany. So, although the Holocaust is in the backdrop of the story, The Book Thief is not a Holocaust story.
The Book Thief is also a book about books. Most of Liesel’s relationships can be described through the stealing, reading, and creation of books.
The Book Thief is the story about the power of words to bring death and hope to the residents of a small town in Germany during World War II.
Information About the Author:
Markus Zusak was born in Australia on 23 June 1975 but his roots actually go back to the Germany of his mother’s childhood. In his Printz Award Honor speech Zusak (2007) said that his childhood was different than his friends because his parents’ stories were of the War they lived through in Austria and Germany. He praises his parents for their ability to tell their stories “in a beautiful, meaningful, and compelling way (p. 17).
Markus started writing when he was sixteen years old, which he also credits his parents for. He says that his parents felt it was important that he could read in English and filled their house with books. Before he became an author, Zusak was a high school English teacher after attending the University of Sydney.
For more information on Markus Zusak, please see his biography.
- Historical fiction
- World War II
- Point of view
- Start with book burning activity
- Feature a reading of Death’s description of War
- Book trailer by ExpandedBooks
Reading Level/Interest Age:
- Ages 12 and up
- Reading level 5.1
Why did you include this resource in the titles you selected?:
I read The Book Thief after I read the review in Kirkus and fell in love with the language.
- 2006 – Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best Book (South East Asia & South Pacific)
- 2006 – Horn Book Fanfare
- 2006 – Kirkus Reviews Editor Choice Award
- 2006 – School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
- 2006 – Publishers Weekly Best Children Book of the Year
- 2006 – Booklist Children Editors’ Choice
- 2007 – ALA Best Books for Young Adults
- 2007 – Michael L. Printz Honor Book
- 2009 – Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Master List
Markus Zusak. (2009) Contemporary Authors Online. Gale.
Markus Zusak. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.randomhouse.com/features/
Zusak, M. (2007). Printz Award Honor Speech. Young Adult Library Services,