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. (Source: The Guardia
I just finished the final page of Mark Haddon´s best selling novel «The Curious Insident of the Dog in the Night-Time», and I LOVED IT! I simply HAD to write a blog post about it with my warmest recommendations for all readers out there! I particularly liked it from a teacher´s perspective because you can actually learn a lot about children with Autism and Asberger´s syndrome, and you get do dive into their way of thinking.
The book is also interesting because it is a so called cross-over novel – written for both adults and children. It has even been said that it was the beginning of this trend when it was first published in , and that this trend has continued to grow ever since.
As I often do while reading, I think about the possibilities I have for using this novel in my teaching. I see many opportunities with this novel: working with typical novel features, the story itself, role-plays from events of the novel, working on Asberger´s syndrome and Autism, how people are different etc. I also did a search for resources on the internet (also included as an attempt to make this blog post a bit more digital perhaps?), and found these links particularly interesting and useful:
- The Guardian – Inspiration to discuss the inadequate narrator, swearing, plain prose and humor aspects of the novel
- Podcast – Brilliant for classroom use! Listening to the author talking about his work brings us closer to the story and could help make the student more passionate about reading?
- Audiobook – YouTube has it all! The main argument for promotive reading skills through extensive reading would of course be to actually read the book yourself, but it would be a useful resource for learners struggling to read a full novel in English. It would in fact improve their listening skills though, and perhaps both if reading and listening at the same time
- Different printable activities at TeachIt.co.uk – Picture game, guided reading questions etc.
- A teacher´s resource kit – wow, we English teachers are so lucky these things exist! Thank you Internet and teachers around the world who want to share their work with others! A great resource for especially fresh teachers like me trying to build up my own «resource-bank».
Here you can see the trailer for the stage version of the story that has become highly popular in England and received excellent reviews by for instance the Daily Mail («Magical and moving») and the Sunday Express («Astonishing and unmissable»). It was also the winner of 7 Oliver Awards in 2013 including Best New Play.
Perhaps this could inspire a role-play in the classroom?
One more book recommendation: «The Reason I Jump»
Another similar book that has caught my interest is the «The Reason I jump» (2013) – a memoir of living with autism, by Naoki Higashida, a Japanese 13-year old. It has received excellent reviews, and in contrast to «The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time» this is a real life story based on his own thoughts and perceptions.
Goodreads.com describes the book in this way:
You’ve never read a book like The Reason I Jump. Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one at last have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.
Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.
I picked up this novel at the airport a few weeks ago (I have unfortunately not had the time to quite finish it yet, but I soon will!!!), partly because this video caught my interest:
You can read what the Norwegian book-lovers think about the book here.
So if you have the time to shut out the digital world around you, I recommend to get a hold on at least one of these books, make yourself a nice cup of tea, crawl under the blanket and get lost into the minds of someone a bit out of the ordinary for an educational, fun, interesting, thoughtful and entertaining journey!
I´m signing off with a quote from «The Reason I Jump»:
«As long as we can learn to love ourselves, I´m not sure it matters that much if you have Autism or not…» (my translation)