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2.

Choice of Text: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of


the Dog in the Night-Time

During the course of the semester, I started picking up random novels that were
mentioned in the seminar. I was not sure which one I would choose for this
portfolio, and initially I had aimed to design lesson plans for two books: The
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and Stargirl by
Jerry Spinelli, simply because they were the ones that I a) enjoyed the most, and
b) considered the most valuable and suitable for students aged 14-15. While I was
designing the first lesson, however, I quickly started to realize that, in order to do
justice to each book, I would have to dedicate at least four lessons to one single
novel. This is why I chose to focus on Mark Haddon’s text only. I picked The
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because of several reasons: One, I
believe it is a very quick and also quite easy read, extremely entertaining and
funny. Two, the style in which it is written and the narrative technique both make
this novel a unique piece of literature, providing a special insight into a special
teenager’s life.

I would use it in a 5th grade (14 year-olds) because I feel that both the topic and
language level are appropriate for learners aged fourteen or fifteen.

3. Lessons plans
3.1. Lesson 1: Setting the scene for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-
Time

This first lesson on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time will engage
the students in a number of pre-reading activities.
At the beginning of the lesson, I will show the students a picture of the cover or the
book cover itself (or both). I will have them guess what the novel could be about.
We will then listen to an English boy reading out the first chapter of the book. 1
Hence, the students will not only train their listening skills, but can also find out

1
http://www.randomhouse.co.uk/curious/.

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what the story is about and whether they were somehow on the right track with
their own speculations about the novel’s contents. After having discovered what
happens in the first chapter, I will ask the learners to get together in groups of
three or four (depending on the size of the class) to discuss possible solutions to
the question of what will happen next. The purpose of this activity is not only to
spark interest by creating suspense, but also to develop the students’ speaking
skills by arguing and negotiating their versions of the story (there should be one
final version in the end which the whole group can agree on). I will ask a few
groups to present their stories to the class.
I will then hand out copies of the first few chapters (3, 5, 7 and 11) which we will
use to get started with the novel. Usually, I am not a fan of reading out whole
passages of a book in class, but I think short passages are OK because the
students can now check whether their speculations about the content of the story
were right or completely wrong. It also helps to get used to the author’s style and
also serves as a transitional exercise leading up to the next one: Learning about
Asperger (’s) Syndrome, the condition Christopher, the novel’s hero, suffers from. I
will hand out copies of a text about Asperger Syndrome which the students are
asked to read silently. We will then discuss in class what the main points are, and I
will point out to them to keep these in mind when reading the novel.
The next activity is a writing task for which they will have to adapt the theoretical
knowledge they have just gained for a specific purpose: writing a short diary entry
from Christopher’s perspective. It can be about a certain event or a whole day, but
it must somehow revolve around the hero’s disorder. When they are finished, I will
ask some students to read out their texts.
At the end of the lesson, I will hand each student a copy of the novel.2
Finally, I will set the homework, which is a (rather long) reading task: They are
supposed to read the first part of the novel, which is up to page 113, and to jot
down the references to Asperger’s Syndrome. (I have divided up the story into
three parts – part 1 reaching up to the passage on page 113 where Chris finds his
mother’s letters, part 2 until Chris’ escape to London on page 173, and part 3 from
174 till the end.)

2
The books are either to be found in the library or have been purchased by the teacher, who will then collect
the money from the students.

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Lesson Plan 1

Time Content Skills Methods Objectives Material


Introduction: Show LL T shows the cover of to develop creativity
4 minutes the cover of the book, Speaking the book in order to and activate Picture of the book
make them guess raise interest imagination, speaking cover or the book
what story is about skills itself
LL listen to the first LL listen and look at to enhance listening
3 minutes chapter read out by Listening the website skills and spark Website on the
an English boy interest of LL internet
LL make speculations LL get together in to voice and negotiate
12 minutes about what is going to Speaking groups of 3 or 4, ideas, speaking skills Pen and paper (if LL
happen next make up a story, wish to make notes)
report back to class
Individual students to get started with the
8 minutes Reading out chapters Reading read out chapters and novel, reading and Photocopies of
3,5,7,11 in class then we discuss speaking skills respective chapters
whether speculations
were right
Learning about LL read text to provide information
10 minutes Asperger Syndrome Reading individually, then on main protagonist’s Photocopies of text on
summarize main condition, to expand Asperger Syndrome
points vocabulary
Students are asked to LL use information on to adapt theoretical
10 minutes write a diary entry Writing AS to do a creative knowledge to a Pen and paper
from Christopher’s writing task certain needs (for
perspective creative writing)
3 minutes: handing out copies of the novel, T explains homework: reading task (read novel up to p.113), make sure to mark the passages where
Chris’ AS symptoms become evident

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3.2. Lesson 2: Part 1 of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

This lesson, centering around while reading activities, will be a particularly


interactive one where the pupils have a chance to discuss several aspects of the
story in detail.
First, I will divide the class into groups of 2 or 3 (depending on the number of
students). They will be asked to do several activities together3, starting with
questions 1 and 2. Question 2 in particular is also some kind of a check-up to see
whether the pupils have read the assigned reading and have taken notes. It also
serves as a means of revising what was said about Asperger Syndrome in the
previous lesson and to detect the signs and symptoms Christopher shows of his
condition. Afterwards, we will compare the possible solutions the students have
come up with, which I will write down on the blackboard to create a kind of
summary of the students’ ideas.
Next, I would like them to design a poster about Christopher to foster a bit of close
reading.4 The students are encouraged to browse through the book and/or their
notes again to find as many details as possible about Christopher’s personality,
his likes and dislikes, etc. We will then put up the posters in the classroom (and
will come back to them in one of the following lessons).
The last activity I have planned for this lesson is for the learners to create a still
pose of the character constellation around Christopher, first sketching it on a piece
of paper and then representing it using fellow students to stand for individual
characters.5 I want each student to do this individually and see at least two or
three possible still poses. I will ask them to hold on to their sketches for later use.

At the end of the lesson, I will assign the homework for the following session: The
first task is to rewrite the incident with the policeman right after Christopher’s
discovery that Wellington was killed. The second task is to read the second part of
the novel (pages 114-173).

3
Cf. Appendix, p.20.
4
Cf. Appendix, p.20, question 3.
5
Cf. Appendix, p.20, question 4.

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Lesson Plan 2

Time Content Skills Methods Objectives Material

2 minutes Assigning groups


to get LL “warmed up”
8 minutes Discussing questions Speaking, writing LL, in groups, and talking, to check Pen and paper,
1 & 26 negotiate the possible whether LL have read possibly also the
answers the assigned reading novel
task
to compare possible
7 minutes Discussing possible Speaking, listening LL and T talk about solutions to the Blackboard
answers in class possible answers questions, at the
same time revision of
contents of the novel
Writing, speaking,
15 minutes LL are asked to deriving information LL, in groups, to conduct “close- Posters and pens
design a poster about from novel and negotiate most reading”, revision of (provided by T)
Christopher making use of it for a important issues/key first part of novel
creative purpose terms
to compare students’
15 minutes LL create a still pose Speaking(, writing) Each learner creates notions and concepts Pen and paper, fellow
of characters in novel his individual still pose of the novel’s students
character
constellation

3 minutes: T explains homework: to write an inner monologue from perspective of policeman, and to read pages 114-173 of the novel

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See Appendix, p. 20 for detailed description of activities and questions.

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3.3. Lesson 3: Part 2 of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

At the beginning of the lesson which focuses on some more while reading
activities, I will collect the homework (to write an inner monologue from the
perspective of the policeman) from all students.

The first task in this lesson is to get together in pairs and take a close look at the
first letter from Chris’ mother (p.121), and to spot the mistakes in there. We will
then compare the results and I will write down the solutions on the blackboard.
This activity is meant to consolidate (or improve) the students’ spelling skills and
let them have a go at “playing teachers”.

Afterwards, I will ask the students to act out the scene between Mrs. Shears
(Eileen) and Christopher’s father (Ed Boone) when they are having their final
argument (cf. p. 150-152 of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time).
For this activity, I want them to find a partner again and to assign the parts. First,
each couple practices the dialog. When everyone is finished, I will ask a few
couples to act out their little play in front of the class.

What follows is a short analysis of the language used in The Curious Incident of
the Dog in the Night-Time. 7 I will point out which aspects could be explored before
the students get together in groups of 3 or 4. I will then try and pull together the
various suggestions made by the students and comment on the power an author
possesses when writing a story. This activity is meant to give the learners some
ideas of how a piece of literature could be analyzed and what effect a certain kind
of usage of language can have on the readers (e.g. to rouse sympathy or create
confusion). We will also talk about the point of view from which the story is told
and what the effect of this first-person narration is.8

The final activity for this session will be the following: The students are to propose
some ideas of how the story might end (including questions such as “Will
Christopher be reunited with his mother?” and “Will Chris forgive his father?”). In

7
See Appendix, p. 21, question 1.
8
See Appendix, p. 21, question 2.

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case there are some students who have already finished reading, I will ask those
not to give away the ending.
The homework for the following lesson will be a) to finish the novel, b) to think how
they would create a movie of the book and c) to find the funniest and the saddest
part of the novel, and to explain why9.

9
See Appendix, p. 21 for detailed instructions.

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Lesson Plan 3

Time Content Skills Methods Objectives Material

2 minutes Collecting homework


Spotting the Writing (correct LL, in pairs, correct Training correct Novel, pen and
7 minutes mistakes in Chris’ orthography) the spelling orthography paper; blackboard
mom’s first letter mistakes
LL get a chance to
19 minutes Acting out a scene: Speaking, acting, LL practice dialogs “individualize” the
Mrs. Shears & Ed listening in pairs, then act characters and use
Boone them out in front of their imagination by
the class making up dialogs
LL discuss to get a first insight Novel, pen and
15 minutes Analyzing style and Close reading, questions10 in into how language is paper, blackboard
narrative technique analyzing literature groups of 3 or 4, T used to create (T)
guides the analysis certain effects
5 minutes Speculations of how Speaking Open discussion in Fluent speech,
the story might end class creativity

2 minutes Explaining homework11: finish novel, think about movie, funniest and saddest part

10
See Appendix, p. 21, questions 1 and 2.
11
See Appendix, p. 21.

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3.4. Lesson 4: Part 3 of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The overall aim of this lesson is to provide some fun and challenging post-reading
activities.

I want to start this fourth lesson on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-
Time with a still pose. The students are asked to, again, create a still pose of
the character constellation now that they have completed the novel,
comparing the new sketch with the old one (for this purpose, we will come
back to the first draft). Several students will represent their first AND second
still poses one after another, again using fellow students to stand for certain
characters. The purpose of this activity is to make evident the changes that
have come about in Christopher’s life, and to compare students’ notions of
these changes.

Next, we will discuss the homework, starting with the funniest and saddest parts
for the students. I want this to be an open-class activity where the pupils get
a chance to argue their choices and discuss what made them pick these
particular scenes.

What follows is a comparison of two amateur videos from YouTube.12 While the
students watch each video, they take notes. After having watched both, we
will briefly discuss what the learners liked and disliked about these movies. I
will encourage them to comment on whether and how these differ from their
own ideas of how to produce the movie (this is where the learners refer to
the written homework). I also announce that, next lesson, we will watch part
of the original movie.

The students then engage in a silent dialog with their neighbor: They are
supposed to recreate the conversation between Mrs. Alexander and
Christopher’s father (Ed Boone) having an argument about Mr. Boone lying
to Christopher. After having arranged who represents whom, one student
writes the first statement on a piece of paper, and then passes it on to their
12
Cf. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aJPfS2wPh8&feature=related and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9BAgQtq7WAw&feature=related for videos.

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neighbor. In this way, a silent dialog is created, which is then read out in
class.

The homework for the following lesson will be to a) describe the novel in one
single sentence, b) to revise the novel as far as characters are concerned
(as we will host a press conference next time) and c) to write a review of the
novel.13

13
See Appendix, p. 22 for further details.

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Lesson Plan 4

Time Content Skills Methods Objectives Material

2 minutes Checking homework


Students draw to compare students’
sketch, then do a notions and concepts
15 minutes LL create new still Speaking, (writing) live still pose by of the novel’s First sketch, pen and
poses choosing fellow character paper, fellow students
constellation, and how
students to stand for
it has changed in the
characters course of the novel
LL discuss their to give students a
7 minutes personal “funniest Speaking Open-class possibility to speak Notes (homework)
and saddest part of discussion about personal
the novel” reading experience
Watching and Listening, Film LL watch and take to compare film Internet (YouTube),
15 minutes comparing two Analysis notes, then versions notes (homework)
amateur videos discussion in class
LL engage in silent to foster creative
9 minutes Silent dialog Writing dialog with a partner writing (like a writing pen and paper
workshop)

2 minutes Setting homework14: writing a review of the novel, revising characters Copies of reviews

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Cf. Appendix, p. 22 for detailed instructions on homework exercise tasks.

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4. Conclusion

This is the place to ask what the students have would have learned after these
four lessons. What was I trying to teach them, or make them aware of? Which
skills were trained?

Generally, I have tried to make the reading and the activities fun and somehow
creative, and this was my top priority. I wanted the students to take in the pleasure
of reading and experience how diversified working with a literary text can be. What
is most important to me is that some kind of “safe environment” is created where
they feel encouraged and welcome to state their own opinions, raise questions or
doubts and bring in their own ideas. It would be an absolute nightmare for me if
my pupils thought they had to learn by heart what I have said about the text
because they feel that they have to reproduce my ideas and interpretation of a
text. I believe that literature can only be taught at school successfully if the teacher
steps back more often than not and lets the students develop their own ideas, and
take pleasure in experimenting with the text. Introducing literary texts to (foreign)
language classes, in my opinion, is much more fun when the teacher
himself/herself is willing to take risks and to leave some space for spontaneous
decisions and ideas which are not all laid out and planned in advance. This is why
I tried to make the lessons as interactional as possible, leaving space for free
thought. I did have a handful of other fun activities in mind such as a press
conference and writing chapter zero; in fact, I could have designed many more
lessons on The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because it is one of
the most multifaceted books I have ever come across. (I am also aware of the fact
that many aspects of the novel were left unmentioned.)
I am afraid that not all of my ideas might actually work out in class or be embraced
whole-heartedly by the students, but I am still looking forward to trying out these
lesson plans some day.

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7. Appendix

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Activity Worksheet for Lesson 1

Asperger Syndrome15

Asperger Syndrome or (Asperger's Disorder) is a neurobiological disorder named


for a Viennese pediatrician, Hans Asperger, who in 1944 published a paper which
described a pattern of behaviors in several young boys who had normal
intelligence and language development, but who also exhibited autistic-like
behaviors and marked deficiencies in social and communication skills. Individuals
with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from
mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have
difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have
obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest.
They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and
very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space.
Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS
may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one
else seems to hear or see. Individuals are usually extremely good on rote memory
skills (facts, figures, dates, times etc.) Many excel in maths and science. There is
a range of severity of symptoms within the syndrome: the very mildly affected child
often goes undiagnosed and may just appear odd or eccentric.

Key Features:
The main areas affected by Asperger Syndrome are:

• Social interaction
• Communication
• Narrow Interests / Preoccupations
• Repetitive routines / rituals, inflexibility

Vocab:
disorder: malfunction, causes a part of the body to stop functioning properly
pediatrician: a doctor who studies and treats the diseases of children
to exhibit: to show
deficiency: deficit, shortage
to be preoccupied with sth.: to frequently think about or do sth.
cue: hint, signal
to learn sth. by rote: to learn sth. by heart, to learn the exact wording of a sentence/extract

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This handout is a compilation of information found on the following websites:
http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/,
http://www.maapservices.org/Publications/Rosalyn_Lord_Article.asp ,
http://www.maapservices.org/Publications/Stephen_Bauer_Article.asp.

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Activity Worksheet for Lesson 2

Get together with your partner(s) and discuss the following questions:

1) Why does Christopher hit the policeman?


2) Name a few of Christopher’s peculiarities to be explained by Asperger’s
Syndrome.
3) Design a poster about Christopher. Make sure you use your notes and/or the
novel in order to get as much information as possible about his personality on the
poster (e.g. his likes and dislikes, his problems,…).
4) Still pose (=Standbild): Draw a picture of how you perceive Christopher in
relation to the characters around him. Whom would you put closest / the furthest
away from him and why? Argue your choice. Then represent your still pose
choosing fellow students to stand for certain characters and position them
according to your opinion of how close/distant they are in relation to Chris!

Homework:

1) Rewrite the scene with the policeman (chapters 11, 17 and 23) from the
latter’s perspective, in the form of an inner monologue. Write between 200-
300 words.
2) Read pages 114-173.

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Activity Worksheet for Lesson 3

Get together with a partner and discuss the following questions (and take notes):

1. What have you noticed about the style of the author? Consider aspects such as
choice of vocabulary, degree of formality/informality (=register), sentence structure
and overall tone.

2. How important is the voice of Christopher as the narrator of this story? How or
would this story be different if it were written by a different character - Ed Boone or
Siobhan, for example? How would the story differ if told by a third person
omniscient voice? What would be lost in such changes, what would be gained?

Homework:

a) Finish reading the novel.


b) Imagine you were a director and decided to make a movie of the book. How
would you go about doing this? Think about aspects such as settings, characters,
background music, and the set-up of scenes (e.g. the beginning, Christopher’s
journey to London, etc.). Be specific and provide detailed descriptions!
c) After you have completed the book, find the funniest and the saddest part of the
novel, and explain why you chose those particular scenes.

Note: Write in full sentences.

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Activity Worksheet for Lesson 4

Homework:

1) If you had to describe the novel in one single sentence, what would it be?

2) Review all the characters from the novel. We will hold a press conference next
time, so make sure you have in-depth knowledge about all the main
characters!

3) Write a review of the novel. It might be helpful to read the example reviews to
get started. The review should be between 300-400 words. Make sure you
keep the balance between saying enough and not giving away too much of
the story’s ending! Say where it would be published and be sure to adjust
your style and register according to your target group!

Here are some model reviews. You may read through them to get some ideas for
your own review.

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The Curiously Irresistible Literary Debut of Mark Haddon
Dave Weich, Powells.com

It's not just the hook, though the hook is peculiar and oddly affecting. "When I was
writing," the author allows, "I really thought to myself, Who on Earth is going to want to
read about a fifteen-year-old kid with a disability living in Swindon with his father? And I
thought, I better make the plot good." The hook—the plot ? is significantly better than
good, but it's the irresistible voice of Mark Haddon's young narrator, Christopher Boone,
that elevates this literary debut to fantastic heights.
It was 7 minutes after midnight. The dog was lying on the grass in the middle of the lawn
in front of Mrs. Shears' house. Its eyes were closed. It looked as if it was running on its
side, the way dogs run when they think they are chasing a cat in a dream. But the dog was
not running or asleep. The dog was dead. There was a garden fork sticking out of the dog.

"This is a murder mystery novel," the boy with Behavioral Problems


explains a few pages further on. A fan of Sherlock Holmes stories,
Christopher decides to investigate the poodle's murder and turn the
story into a book of his own.

Christopher is quite good at puzzles, at math, and at remembering. He


is, however, entirely incapable of delineating among the various
grades of human emotion on the scale between happy and sad, which
makes for a curious, if not altogether perplexing perspective. The
narrator may not recognize them, but emotions lurk behind virtually every clue he
uncovers. Still, his pitch never varies. Christopher never slips off course. The author's
foremost accomplishment, in a book chock full of them, is to deliver a wrenching domestic
fiction in such clipped, deductive prose. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-
Time is an emotional roller coaster. And as if that's not enough, it's often very funny, too.

"It's hilarious on one page," a member of the Powells.com customer service department
commented upon returning the company copy to its shelf in the office, "then two pages
later you want to cry."

From http://www.powells.com/authors/haddon.html

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Christopher's World
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by
Mark Haddon

Published by Doubleday

Review by W. R. Greer

The behaviors and demands of adults are mysterious and confusing to most children. To
15-year old Christopher Boone, the narrator in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the
Night-Time, it's completely beyond the realm of his understanding. Christopher is an
autistic savant and while he's a whiz at math and science, human emotions are particularly
complex for him. As the novel opens, he tells us "I know all of the countries of the world
and their capital cities, and every prime number up to 7,057." He finds a neighbor's dog,
named Wellington, murdered and decides to write about it. With the help of his teacher,
Siobhan, he decides to write a book about his attempt to solve this mystery. It's a search
for information that will ultimately upset his carefully constructed world.

Christopher lives alone with his father after his mother died from a heart attack two years
earlier. He never got to visit her at the hospital, but this doesn't bother him since he doesn't
like strange places or people he doesn't know. If people touch him, he will hit them. If his
senses become overloaded or his brain too confused, he will curl up in a ball and groan
loudly, perhaps for hours at a time. Becoming angry with him just makes it worse. He
hates the colors yellow and brown. His world needs order and precision. He will do math
problems in his head for hours just to pass the time or distract him from an unpleasant
situation. As he begins his investigation into Wellington's death, he assures us that
everything he will tell us is true:

I do not tell lies. Mother used to say that this was because I was a good person. But it is not
because I am a good person. It is because I can't tell lies.
Mark Haddon, who has worked with autistic children, has created a unique narrator to tell
this story. At first glance, an autistic child whose fantasy is to wake one day and find he's
the only living person left on earth would seem to be an unlikely narrator. We quickly
come to understand Christopher Boone and his understandings and misunderstandings of
how the world works. We sympathize with the adults who must suffer his fits and practice
extreme patience with the minute details with which he orders his life. Christopher's father
is the most patient with him, even if his manner is gruff at times. He quickly forbids
Christopher to ask anyone questions about Wellington's death and to promise to let the
matter die, which Christopher does, within the specifics of his promise. The questions he's
already asked, though, and the people he's already met have put events into motion that
will eventually send him on an adventure that will challenge all of his skills to cope with
the world that he is especially challenged to understand.

Because Christopher understands even less of the world than most 15-year olds, the result
is that seeing the effects of emotions, lies, and intrigue of the adult world through his eyes
lets them hit even more powerfully. Since he sees all this in his non-judgmental
perspective and only how they affect the careful order in his world, the flaws of the adults
are heightened by their disregard for the effect they have on Christopher while also being
tempered by the fact that his autism has placed incredible stresses on all their lives.

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Christopher is more than just a different medium for seeing the world. In Mark Haddon's
capable hands, he quickly becomes all too real, and while he can be incredibly frustrating,
he explains his world in a way that makes perfect sense. When events unfold that threaten
his carefully maintained world, his quest to solve the problem is as adventurous and
dangerous as any literary character. To Christopher, it's something he just must do.

Christopher Boone makes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time a delightful
and different novel. It provides a different perspective on the flaws and foibles of man,
where adults can often act as childish and petulant as the children. While the redemption of
love and the bonds of family may be universal themes, Mark Haddon has provided a
touching look at how they affect one boy and one family.

When this book was initially released, it received rave reviews. After it had won awards
and stayed one of the most popular books on this site, I decided I had finally had to read it.
I shouldn't have waited so long. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time should
be on everyone's reading list.

From http://www.reviewsofbooks.com/curious_incident_of_the_dog/review/

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