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The premise of Margolis's (Fix) effervescent story-a girl uses the techniques from a dog-training manual on boys-has been seen before (e.g., Sandra Dee in If a Man Answers), but rarely has it been so well grounded and developed. Right before the start of sixth grade, Annabelle returns from sleepaway camp to move into the house that her single mother and her mother's sensitive if geeky boyfriend have just set up. Their surprise gift of a puppy, Annabelle realizes, is their attempt to "bribe" her into liking the new arrangements, but she loves the puppy anyway. School, on the other hand, is a battleground, especially because it's Annabelle's first time going coed. Margolis gets the details of middle-school boy behavior just right: the boy sitting behind Annabelle torments her with endless kicking; her two lab partners hog the equipment; others play keep-away with her homework. When Annabelle does connect the dots between puppy training and communicating with boys, her breakthroughs come across as genuine. The story lines-melded household, moving, boys as dogs-coalesce naturally, giving girl readers a thoughtful story along with, just possibly, some substantive boy advice. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.