Book Review: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time

Welcome to the July Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival.

The Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival hosted by Science@home is for anyone, because we are all teachers and learners all the time. This month our theme is “English”, including Speaking, Listening, Reading and Viewing. I think our bloggers have covered all of these and there are lots of resources and game ideas, plus a giveaway. Please read through to the end to find links to the other participating blogs.


The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon was one of the books listed in the best books of all time for children aged 12 plus by The Guardian. I highlighted The Guardian's lists in my post on Reading, Learning and Education. In this post I also linked to an article written by Trevor Cairney on The Importance of Reader Response. (I love Trevor's blog. Every post has so much helpful information for parents on all things literacy, you should make sure you subscribe to it!) I had heard great things about The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time so I reserved a copy at our local library with the plan that both myself and my 11.5 year old Thinker would read it. Then I would ask some of the suggested questions from Trevor's post to illicit a response from my son and myself, which we could discuss together. Before I document our responses, just a quick synopsis on the book:

Christopher is 15 and lives in Swindon with his father. He has Asperger's Syndrome, a form of autism. He is obsessed with maths, science and Sherlock Holmes but finds it hard to understand other people. When he discovers a dead dog on a neighbour's lawn he decides to solve the mystery and write a detective thriller about it. As in all good detective stories, however, the more he unearths, the deeper the mystery gets - for both Christopher and the rest of his family.

FEELINGS - What was your first reaction to the book?

Thinker: I liked the way it was different to most books I have read. Things like having prime numbers for the chapters made it interesting to read. What happened in Christopher's life was pretty traumatic and it made for a good plot. I liked it a lot. Mum: The book made me cry within the first couple of chapters (slightly embarrassing as I was reading on the treadmill at the gym!). It made me realise how difficult life can be for people who have Asperger's Syndrome and for their families who look after them. It was one of those books that I didn't want to stop reading. In deed Christopher's life was traumatic.

IMAGES - What images came to mind when reading the book?

Thinker: I kept thinking about the dog with the fork stuck in it. Christopher described it so well, I could really picture how it would have looked. The scenes at the train stations were also pretty vivid, I felt sorry for him having to be in those places when he didn't like them. Mum: Panic was an image that kept coming to me. So many things panicked Christopher and made him uncomfortable. I could see his worry and confusion. I could also imagine the sadness and frustration in his parents. This is one of the scenes that made me cry still sticks in my mind very vividly:
Father was standing in the corridor. He held up his right hand and spread his fingers out in a fan. I held up my left hand and spread my fingers out in a fan and we made our fingers and thumbs touch each other. We do this because sometimes Father wants to give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people, so we do this instead, and it means that he loves me.
Thinker: I didn't cry at all in the book, but I did feel sad for Christopher because life was much harder for him that it is for me.

TEXTUAL ELEMENTS - Were there any features in the book that caught your attention?

Thinker: The illustrations were great to have so I can could get a clearer picture of things he was talking about. I also liked all the talk about mathematics and calculations, they made me think. Some of them were to difficult for me to understand though. Mum: The emphasis on the mathematical equations throughout the book was a great touch, reinforcing Christopher's need for order and familiarity. Numbers gave him that and a vehicle to try to make sense of the unknown. The footnotes also allowed readers additional background information about Christopher, like when he didn't talk to anyone for 5 weeks.

INVOLVEMENT - Did you feel involved with this book or distant from it?

Thinker: I felt sorry that Christopher had to find out so many sad things at once. It would have been hard for anyone, but particularly hard for him. Mum: The first two pages of with The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time had me emotionally involved in the story. In these pages the author uses very simple explanations to help the reader understand Christopher's world. It is the simplicity of the author's writing which helped me understand things about Asperger's Syndrome that I have never fully comprehended before:
And when I am in a new place, because I see everything, it is like when the computer is doing too many things at the same time and the central processor unit is blocked up and there isn't any space left to think about other things..... I have to close my eyes and put my hands over my ears and groan, which is like pressing CTRL + ALT + DEL and shutting down programs and turning the computer off and rebooting so that I can remember what I am doing and where I am meant to be going.
Thinker: The book gave me a better understanding of Asperger's Syndrome.

EVALUATION - Did you like the book?

Thinker: It was quite unique in its content and the way that the author wrote the story as Christopher writing the story. It made me feel grateful for the life I have and understand that some children have difficulties with daily life. It was not a fast paced action book, but it gives you time to think about what is happening. I think it would be good for all children to read this book, so they know what is like for children with Asperger's Syndrome. Mum: It would be so helpful for children to read this book and understand why children with Asperger's Syndrome react the way they do. This book is one of those books that you treasure reading. It is funny, sad and adds to your understanding of the complexities of human nature. It also made me feel grateful that life is not so tough for my five beautiful kids and made me be even in more awe of those families who live and enjoy life, whilst coping with the challenges of a child with Asperger's Syndrome. I loved this book, but I also loved the experience of reading the same book as my son and discussing it with him. It was evident that as an adult I read much more into some of the scenes than Thinker did, but I was impressed at the level of empathy he showed in our discussions and his ability to articulate his response to these questions. This book was my choice, so next time Thinker says he wants to choose the book we read to discuss. Have you read The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time? If so feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.


Visit Science@home to find out more about the Teach/Learn Blogging Carnival. [flickr id="4533876028" thumbnail="medium" align="right"]

Please take the time to visit the other participants and check out their posts on "English."

  • Monique at Your Cheeky Monkey has written about why her family thinks storytelling is so important, some storytelling ideas, and a few of their favorite books.
  • Julie at Works For Me Homemaking is encouraging sound play with preschoolers and not just for fun. It is an important tool to develop sound awareness skills and enhance early literacy development.
  • Staci from Teaching Money to Kids reminds us that sometimes language and interaction need to be explicitly taught and practiced, and has some ways to teach the language of sharing.
  • Leechbabe from Stuff with Thing asks what happens when your child interprets everything said to them in a very literal way? How do you aid their understanding of the funny things people say?
  • Squiggle Mum was reminded recently that you don't have to be a literacy specialist to know how to read aloud to a young child. After all, it ain't rocket science...
  • Lisa at SMMART Ideas has a LETTER MATCHING activity to help you practice spelling words, or even foreign language vocabulary.
  • Deb from Science@home has a giveaway to help you go on an expedition on your bookshelf.
  • Colin Wee at Super Parents is teaching his kids to argue by learning how to create a reasoned argument for English creative writing and the OREO Acronym.
  • The Planning Queen from Planning With Kids had her own bookclub when she and her son read the same book. It was a great experience to have a book discussion with her son where she hadn't been reading the story "to him".
  • Deb Chitwood from Living Montessori agrees with Maria Montessori that young children have a natural love of learning. Thanks to matching Montessori sandpaper letters with small objects, her son decided as a toddler that learning to read was just a fun game.
  • Amanda at HomeAge posts that we all know The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but Eric Carle has so much more to offer to young readers, particularly those interested in the natural world. With bright, beautiful artworks and simple, repetitive stories these books are a wonderful way to entice the young "reader".
  • Miss Carly from Early Childhood Resources has steps and advice in creating a literacy rich environment for children of all ages.
  • Christie at Childhood 101 points out that the process of sharing stories through oral storytelling is an age old tradition amongst families, but does it have a place in our busy modern day family life?
  • Sarah at Bringing up Baby Bilingual describes her public library's Writing Buddies program where high school student volunteers lead groups of at-risk fourth and fifth graders through a series of outer-space-themed writing activities. Writing prompts and resources included in the post!
  • CatWay at Adventures With Kids asks What is phonics all about? Is this something I should know more about to help my child learn to read and write?
  • Narelle from A Bunch of Keys has some simple suggestions for making your own literacy resources for children at home. Includes ideas for books with simple rhymes, books with puppets, books about family trips and making felt boards.
  • Zoe at Playing By the Book has gone fishing for words in illustrated dictionaries to support her early reader.
Thanks for visiting our carnival, we hope you enjoy some of these posts and have found some interesting blogs.


  1. says

    This book is amazing. I cried a lot while reading it too. Made me so grateful my girls seek sensory input and thus like cuddles. Will be interesting to hear what Annie thinks when she is reads it. I’m waiting until she is older because although her reading level means she could read it I think the content is a little overwhelming for a 7yo.

    • says

      I would love to hear what Annie thinks of it when she is old enough to read it. It is one of those books that I encourage everyone to read – there is so much to get out of it.

  2. says

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for your generous comments on my blog. I loved your post and the fact that you read the same book as your son and then shared your responses. Glad the questions were helpful. I found with my daughters as they grew up that we needed to keep reading books in parallel. Literature had been so important to the building of common ground in our relationships that as they got older they began to ask me to read books that they liked so we could talk about them (they still do at 30+ (!).

    Thanks again,

  3. says

    I love the idea of you and your son reading the same book but separately and then coming together to discuss it. My kids aren’t old enough for this yet, but I hope we’ll do the same. I’ve done something similar myself this year – having found it hard to find time to read for myself I decided to ask 12 friends to suggest a book each for me to read this year – anything they loved. This has led to me reading all sorts I wouldn’t normally have read, some wonderful conversations and a feeling of connection with these friends through the books.

  4. says

    I’ve seen this title around, but now I am actually interested in reading it. Will be booking it up at the library once I can get the pile next to my bed a little shorter :)

  5. says

    What a great activity to do with your son. It is so interesting to read what he thought about the book (although I haven’t read it myself).

  6. says

    I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to do this, what a wonderful idea. I’ve just read a book about a character with Asperger’s Syndrome, House Rules by Jodi Picoult. Fiction certainly has a great emotional impact letting us have a little insight into what it must be like.

  7. says

    I LOVED this book! I also love this idea – to read a book with your son and discuss it. Great ideas for questions to prompt discussion (love Trevor Cairny’s blog too). Definitely something I would love to do as my children get older.

  8. says

    Great post! What a wonderful activity to do with your son – I loved reading both of your responses to the questions. It’s often hard for parents to justify taking the time to read separately from their children. This gives a good reason! And the book sounds like great way for children to gain an understanding of Asperger’s Syndrome.

  9. says

    Even at an early age, it’s great to ask questions about plot, characters, setting…and using correct vocabulary. These types of questions would provide a foundation for when the child is old enough to engage in this type of activity where you read the book separately and then have your own little “book group”.

  10. says

    This book is one of the VCE texts for English in our school. I began reading it when started working with kids on the Autism spectrum and never ended up finishing it. I really should finish the book.

    I never thought about reading it with the kids, but perhaps that would be a good idea. Particularly for 10yo Mr Busy who has three ASD kids in his classroom.

  11. says

    I haven’t read this book. It sounds absolutely fantastic though. The descriptions are incredibly vivid and really pull you in.

    On a side note, have you seen Mozart & the Whale? Fantastic movie about ASD.

  12. says

    “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” by Jonathan Safran Foer is another book whose protagonist is in some ways similar to the narrator in “Curious Incident.” I would love to read the former with my son when he’s much older to hear a young teen boy’s impressions of this novel and this character!