HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DAD by Gary Paulsen

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Carl’s dad is a rescue-dog-loving, environment-saving, just-generally-really nice guy. And Carl can’t take it anymore.

When his dad inadvertently ruins Carl’s chances to impress the girl he likes, Carl decides to take a leaf out of a puppy training book and try using positive reinforcement to nudge his dad toward behavior that is more, well, normal. Things don’t go well at first (the pink overalls and garage sale incident, for instance) but the family pit bull, Carol, seems to get exactly what Carl wants to do and starts to guide him in the right direction. But as positive training results blend with the hilarious, spectacular fails, will Carl’s new and improved dad be all he’s cracked up to be? Or is it possible that teaching an old dad new tricks will lead to the loss of the old dad altogether?

This spirited narrator had me laughing from page one. In addition to hilarious descriptions and zany situations, strong themes of family and identity give the novel the kind of depth you expect from Gary Paulsen. As a dog lover, I especially appreciated how much of a pivotal character rescue-pup Carol ended up being. Any fan of middle grade contemporary fiction will love this new title, especially those looking for an unrelenting comedy. This is also a great candidate for classroom use since the humor will appeal to even the most reluctant readers while the thematic content will allow for meaningful discussion.

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