cover image How to Train Your Dad

How to Train Your Dad

Gary Paulsen. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-374-31417-0

In a comically wry narration, Carl Hemesvedt explains that he desperately wants to be “lookatable” to impress classmate Peggy. But this poses a challenge for the cued-white 12-going-on-13-year-old, whose resourceful but mishap-prone single father believes in living off the grid in a “semi-scroungy” trailer in an industrial area, dumpster-diving for food, and bartering labor for clothes at garage sales. When Carl discovers a puppy-training pamphlet in a marked-down bag of food for the family’s pit bull rescue, he tries applying its tenet of positive reinforcement to persuade his father to adopt more socially acceptable habits, also enlisting the help of garrulous best friend Pooder. Newbery Honoree Paulsen, renowned for his tales of survival, revisits the humor and hijinks found in his Liar, Liar series. Carl’s hang-dog descriptions of having to wear pink overalls and ride an “original creation” bike are funny and endearing, and eternal optimist Pooder is the perfect sidekick to perpetually resigned Carl. And underneath the training mishaps is a sweet story about a kid who figures out that his life—and his dad—may not be so bad after all. Ages 10–14. (Oct.)