I test-drove The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time with my ninth graders. We read and discussed the book in a single week. For my largely special-ed classes, this was a fast, fast read. Because of the language, the book was also controversial. I was waiting to see what would happen. Now the unit and the school year are over, and I have some thoughts:
–This was the first book we did in which I didn’t read any part of it aloud to the class. Every bit of the reading was homework. Unfortunately, a great many of my ninth graders weren’t up to the task. I tracked their reading by having them to annotations in the book or handing in short summaries of the plot. Between a third and half of them didn’t read each section, even though I made the audio version available to struggling readers, and there were five sections. This was disappointing, to say the least, especially since the book isn’t a difficult or archaic read.
–The ones who did read the book responded well to it. They liked Christopher, and they liked the story, and they liked seeing a story from an autistic character’s point of view.
–My autistic students, especially, reacted well. One my ASD students, who struggles with school a lot, got very much into the book.
–The swearing didn’t seem to bother any of the students. (I didn’t think it would.) In class, I often put on a faux shocked demeanor about it. (“Shocking language! I know none of YOU have ever heard these words before. It must be terribly difficult for you to see such things in print.”) They usually laughed. “We’ve seen way worse!”
–The major plot twists (who killed Wellington the dog and what happened to Christopher’s mother) truly startled the class and even made them a little upset.
–I pointed out that the author was using wee and poo (as Christopher puts it) as symbols, and the students thought that was absolutely splendid.
–Steven Harper Piziks