The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time- Mark Haddon

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  by Mark Haddon was a very interesting and thought provoking read.  I purchased this book for my Kindle over the summer because my local school district assigned it to all of their students for summer reading and hosted book discussions for the community and encouraged the city to join in reading this book.  I finally got around to reading it while traveling this past week and I’m so glad that I did.

The book is told from the perspective of a teen male who is mathematically inclined and describes himself as having behaviors problems.  In the book he investigates the death of a neighbor’s dog.  What you get however is not just a mystery but insight into the life of a teen who displays autistic-like tendencies.  I do work with students on the autism spectrum so for me I was able to relate to the struggles the narrator describes.  In fact Haddon’s descriptions provided an easily accessible and plausible explanations of why a person with autism might have certain personality quirks.  (Haddon does not claim to be an expert and there may be no way to fully know what goes on in someone else’s head but it rings true to me.) By the time I was nearing the end of the book I couldn’t put it down and was very invested in the life of the main character.

I would recommend this book for any adult who works with autistic children.  I would also use this as a classroom read or recommend it for an individual student to read.  I feel it could spark great discussion about family relationships, disabilities and abilities, along with questions of morality.

AWARDS:

WINNER YALSA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year
WINNER Booklist Editor’s Choice for Young Adults
WINNER School Library Journal Adult Books for Young Adults
WINNER ALA Best Books for Young Adults
WINNER New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age
WINNER New Jersey Garden State Teen Book Award
WINNER 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize of Europe and South Asia

Push- Sapphire

Push by Sapphire has received a lot of attention after being turned into the award-winning movie “Precious.”  I picked a copy of it up at a bookstore a few months ago and then forgot about it.  I’m glad I read it now though.  I had a feeling I would like the book but was not prepared for the way in which it was written. The novel is written from Precious’ point of view and is written as if she wrote it- and as a girl severely lacking in reading and writing skills this means that there are phonetic spellings, lots of swearing, and also slang.  I did find it easy to follow though and read it rather quickly.

I think this is a great book for English teachers to read because it reminds us of what deficiencies our students may be coming to us with that we might not think of.  i.e. the inability to read or write.  Due to the graphic descriptions of rape, incest, and abuse I would be hesitant to use this in my classroom.  I think it has a message that could be discussed, but having worked with students coming from this type of a background themselves I would be concerned about triggering flashbacks and or re-traumatizing them.  I would however recommend it to students in 11th and 12th grade while explaining to them that there are some rather graphic scenes, and letting them make their own mind up about whether they want to read it or not.

Overall I really enjoyed the book.

Awards:

2010 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults- YALSA

Whale Talk- Chris Crutcher

I just finished reading this book almost entirely straight through.  I found it interesting, engaging, and felt it touched on several key issues for teens today.  The protagonist is a 17 year old male, and is multi-racial.  The book deals with racism, child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, the mentally handicapped, the physically handicapped, obesity, and the general need for acceptance that most teens can relate to.  I thought the characters were likeable and easy to relate to.  There are even great multi-syllable vocabulary words- thanks to one brainiac character.  The novel revolves around a make-shift swim team, so it may be of interest to swimmers, or other athletes- especially those who don’t play the “big sports” like football, basketball, and soccer or hockey.  I could see this being a book that is used as a classroom read for 9th-12th graders.  The language is easily understandable, but the themes are complex enough for any high school student to glean meaning from.

Awards:

ALA Popular Paperbacks for YA 2005

ABC Children’s Booksellers Choices Award 2002

Washington State Book Award 2002

Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award 2002

Outstanding Sports Book Award/YA 2002

ALA Best Book for YA

TLA Tayshas List

New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age

ALA Top 10 Best Books for YA

Book Sense 76 Pick