by Mark Haddon
Christopher John Francis Boone knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He relates well to animals but has no understanding of human emotions. He cannot stand to be touched. And he detests the color yellow.
This improbable story of Christopher’s quest to investigate the suspicious death of a neighborhood dog makes for one of the most captivating, unusual, and widely heralded novels in recent years.
Discussion questions from SOMN
- One of the unusual aspects of the novel is its inclusion of many maps and diagrams. How effective are these in helping the reader see the world through Christopher’s eyes?
- Christopher’s conversations with Siobhan, his teacher at school, are possibly his most meaningful communications with another person. What are these conversations like, and how do they compare with his conversations with his father and his mother?
- Christopher’s parents—with their affairs, their arguments and their passionate rages—are clearly in the grip of emotions they themselves can’t fully understand or control. How, in juxtaposition to Christopher’s incomprehension of the passions that drive other people, is his family situation particularly ironic?
- What is unique about the way Christopher views the world? How it is similar or different to the ways you view the world?
- What is the effect of reading the letters Christopher’s mother wrote to him? Was his mother justified in leaving? Does Christopher comprehend her apology and her attempt to explain herself (p. 106–10)? Does he have strong feelings about the loss of his mother? Which of his parents is better suited to taking care of him?
- When Christopher’s father tells him who killed Wellington, how does Christopher react? Do you agree with how he feels?
Classroom activities from SOMN
- Listen to this interview with author Mark Haddon.
- Discuss the paradoxes present in the novel that Haddon discusses. What other paradoxes did you notice and what do you think of them?
- Mark Haddon discusses the reasons why he chose to portray character of Christopher he way he did. Research the broad range of responses to the character and his portrayal. What do you think about his choices?
- Watch this video on the adaptation of the novel as a play.
- The creators state that the novel is not about disability, but about difference. What do you think about that statement? How might that framework inform their artistic decisions?
- Autism consultant Robyn Steward discusses creativity and the difference between social imagination and creative imagination in the video. What do you think about her insights?
- Christopher explains to the readers early on that one of the hard things of his existence is that he can see (and remember) everything he witnesses. Write a story of your own day in this style, seeing and reporting on all of the little facts you might otherwise miss or ignore. Include drawings and maps of the places and things you encounter!
- Christopher’s viewpoint is what drives the book—but what about the other characters? What do they think and feel about all of the events? Pick one of the characters from the novel—Mr. Shears, Mrs. Shears, Mrs. Alexander, or Christopher’s teacher Siobhan—and narrate the events of the book from their perspective.