I’ve said on many occasions that the choice of texts for year 12 students is as important as how you teach them. Having the year 12 class I did this year, my choices had to be made very carefully. I’ve already shared 2 out of the 4 texts my year 12s have studied, The Simple Gift and A Man with Five Children. The other two texts we studied were a selection of speeches by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr, John F Kennedy, and Indira Ghandi, and also the novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Curious Incident) is a story that follows the character Christopher Boone. It was written in 2003 by Mark Haddon and has since won the Whitbread Book of the Year award and the Commonwealth Writer’s prize for best first book.
I think the thing that makes this book so good is that it is so different to anything I’ve ever read, or my students had ever seen. Christopher has autism, he is fifteen and is living alone with his father. We are told that his mother died in a car accident. Christopher needs routine, otherwise he can react very badly, and throughout the book, which is written in first person narrative, we begin to understand the way Christopher sees the world.
The novel is a mix of images and words, the way Christopher would write it. The students are taken through an investigation with Christopher to find out who killed his neighbour’s dog. As the novel unfolds, we learn not only who killed the dog, but also many other things about Christopher’s life that even he did not know.
I think the things the students can learn from this novel are endless. They learn more about autism and the way it affects lives, they learn about how different situations affect different people, they learn that in the end people are not always who we think they are, even our family members, if not especially our family members. It’s important that the students are exposed to different lifestyles and the things that different individuals have to deal with on a daily basis, especially at this point in their studies when it is not long until they are thrown out into the world on their own. Curious Incident helps them to see things from a different point of view, one that they wouldn’t normally get and they take initiative to find out as much as possible about these new ideas and experiences they read about in this novel.
It is well written and interesting, it held 17 year olds attention longer than I’ve ever seen them engaged, except with The Simple Gift, and they continue to talk about their experiences reading this novel.