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The Leanin' Dog

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  996 Ratings  ·  210 Reviews
More than anything, Dessa Dean needed a friend. A friend to love and confide in, a friend with whom she could share her heart. A friend who would delight in all the beauty and joy and fun of Christmas, only four days away.

Hope had just about run out, but then . . . there came a scratchin' at the door and Dessa Dean's life was forever changed.
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published September 30th 2008 by HarperCollins (first published January 1st 2008)
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Aug 31, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
My Review of The Leanin’ Dog by K. A. Nuzum

K. A. Nuzum’s new book, The Leanin’ Dog, tells a first person narrative story about a young girl named Dessa Dean who is eleven years old. The story takes place during the winter in Colorado in the 1930s just before Christmas. Dessa is a lonely child who desperately needs a friend, especially since her mother died. She thinks she will never be happy again. Dessa is trapped. She is a victim of her own mind’s fear, the fear of leaving her home, known as a
Jan 18, 2010 Charlyn rated it liked it
Recommended to Charlyn by: Gr. 4 and up.
After sitting beside her mother in the snow and watching her slowly freeze to death, Dessa Dean has nightmares, daymares, and the inability to leave the porch of the cabin where she and her father live. She spends each day alone, studying her lessons and cooking for the two of them, grieving, while her father tends his traps set in the wild. Then a dog with an injured leg appears on the front porch and Dessa Dean seizes the opportunity to have a friend share her loneliness. But the dog is wary, ...more
Sep 29, 2009 Jolie rated it liked it
Let me begin by saying that I haven't been assigned a book report in a really long time! So when my daughter's teacher asked if I could read a book she was thinking about for one of her book groups, I was actually pretty thrilled. Since I was writing up a report for her, I thought I'd post it here as well:

Dessa Dean began her life in a town, but moved with her parents to a trapper’s cabin in the mountains when work dried up for her father. Now he makes a living trapping animals, selling their pe
From October 2008 SLJ:
Gr 47 Dessa Dean, 11, was a powerless witness as her diabetic mother froze to death when they were caught in an early-winter storm. Since then, she and her father have gone through the motions of normalcy, with him going out daily to check the traps while she stays behind to do the schoolwork he prepares and to fix their meager dinner. But things are not normal: Dessa Dean frequently relives the horror of her mother's death, and she is unable to make herself venture beyond
Angee O'Connell
Oct 01, 2012 Angee O'Connell rated it it was amazing
I loved, loved, LOVED this book! The story line was captivating and I immediately fell in love with the main character. My heart went out to her and her father. When she befriends the dog, I could see the dog and the girl as they interacted with each other. The author's description of the dog as she plays with the girl is perfect (I am especially thinking of the pinecone scene...this dog must be a lab mix!) The ending is completely satisfying. If you are looking for a quick read or looking to re ...more
Ryann Murphy
Jan 24, 2009 Ryann Murphy rated it liked it
Shelves: read-to-clete
Dessa Dean is recovering from the recent death of her mother and is struggling with her fear of the outdoors. One day, a rough looking dog appears on her doorstop and she soon finds out that the only way the dog will stay indoors - is with the door open! In the middle of winter in the mountains, this causes quite a few problems. Overall, this sweet story of how a dog and a girl help each other heal was quite enjoyable.

(And the dog doesn't die - a nice plus.)
Oct 18, 2010 Christine rated it really liked it
Another story in which a young child has lost a parent. This makes four for me in as many months. In this case it is Dessa Dean who has lost her mother to tragic circumstances and the heartache of dealing with that loss and learning to enjoy life again with the love and help of a stray dog and a supportive dad. I really liked Dessa Dean's gumption and grit. Even though she was having a difficult time, she kept on trying.
Aug 14, 2008 Janet rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm loving this on CD. There's nothing like a dog to set a girl right after a big loss! At first the rhythm of the reading was too slow and the enunciation too precise, but it grew on me to the point of appreciation. I recognize that this style really fits the pace of the story and of the often old fashioned language. The narrator has also perfected a realistic bark!
Rosemary Sullivan
Dec 02, 2016 Rosemary Sullivan rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: dog lovers, nature lovers, young adults
Toward the end of "The Leanin' Dog," by K.A. Nuzum, the 11-year-old heroine and narrator Dessa Dean says, "I drew in a deep breath of the brand-new day's frosty air, and felt it chill my insides in a pleasing way," (p. 241). This book is about finding a way to be vibrant and free again, to push fresh air through one's lungs, after a heart-wrenching tragedy. In Ms. Dean's case that tragedy is the horrifying death of her mother, which she witnessed in the wilderness that had once given her such jo ...more
May 23, 2012 Courtney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i think this was a heart warming great story!
Nov 13, 2012 Kat rated it it was amazing
Boring in the beginning but then it gets really good
Bellaandalice Cullen

Love this book xoxoxo leah
Dick Pilskog
Jan 23, 2017 Dick Pilskog rated it it was amazing
I almost did not finish this book because 18 pages it was in a cabin and did not talk about dogs. My wife said take 100 and subtract your age and read it for a time. I kept reading and it was a most enjoyable book. It brought tears to my eyes. A great departure from the books I usually read but thoroughly enjoyable. Recommend the book. Great writing.
Jan 22, 2017 Brook rated it it was amazing
This is my absolute favorite book! And I have read quite a few. This book wouldn't let me put it down, it drew me right in from page 1.
Emma Covert
Jan 10, 2017 Emma Covert rated it really liked it
Absolutely love this book, its great for ALL ages. I myself have read and reread it over and over again, it never gets old.
Eva Mitnick
Mar 26, 2009 Eva Mitnick rated it liked it
Shelves: children
If things had happened differently, Dessa Dean might be happily doing schoolwork with her mom and anticipating another happy Christmas with her parents in their isolated cabin in the woods. Or maybe she would be chafing at spending another lonely winter with only her parents for company, in a cabin with no electricity, plumbing, or separate rooms. Either way, it would be a very different story.

But Dessa Dean’s mom died in the cold less than two months ago and Dessa Dean’s world has shrunk to her
Jul 21, 2009 Suebee rated it really liked it
I was a little worried that "The Leanin' Dog" would put off readers right away with its heavy tone...little girl Dessa Dean (11) has just lost her mother in a snowstorm (47 days ago). Dessa's mother was diabetic and they had been out too long without insulin. Dessa suffers from nightmares and "daymares" where she relives the incident, in which she also lost the tops of her ears to frostbite. It is December (in the 1920s? late 1800s? book never says) and she lives alone with her father in a remot ...more
The Leanin’ Dog by K.A. Nuzum
The International Reading Association Children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award is given to new authors worldwide. The award is nominates authors that show a special promise for writing books for young readers. In 1987, the first two awards were presented and a third was added in 1995. Now there are a total of six to include Primary, Intermediate and Young Adult Fiction, Non-Fiction.
The first novel by K.A Nuzum is a sweet and poignant story called The Leanin’ Dog. Be
Dec 08, 2013 Andrea rated it liked it
The book The Leanin' Dog by K.A. Nuzum is about a young girl that lives out in a cabin with her dad. Dessa Dean is the young girl and with her dad and her alone, she faces time to studying by herself. She is homeschooled because she lives out where not many interesting things are. Dessa Dean's mom died in a horrific snow storm a couple months before Christmas. If a reader likes a book with adventure, then this might be the book for them. In my opinion, there were times that I was getting bored ...more
Jennifer Wardrip
Reviewed by Sarah Bean the Green Bean Teen Queen for

Dessa Dean is afraid to venture outside her cabin in Colorado. Not long ago, Dessa Dean and her mama were trapped outside in the snow - and mama didn't make it back alive.

Dessa Dean is tortured by daymares (nightmares that come in the daytime) and the tips of her ears, which were wounded with frostbite in the accident that claimed her mama, keep burning. She can't bring herself to leave the safety of inside and is wracked by g
Kay Mcgriff
Feb 21, 2012 Kay Mcgriff rated it really liked it
Memories trap Dessa Dean in the small cabin she shares with her father in Colorado mountains. She knows exactly how many steps it is from one point to another inside the cabin, but she doesn't know how to escape the terror of the memories that haunt her. Now Christmas is coming, and she longs for someone to share the lonely days she spends waiting for her father to come back from trapping.

Just when there seems to be no hope left, a dog comes scratching at the door. Together, the dog and Dessa De
Aug 24, 2009 Becky rated it really liked it
Shelves: mother-daughter
I read this book in audio format. Initially I didn't think I was going to like it. It is told in the voice of a preteen girl who uses a rather formal, rural dialect that seemes to indicate the setting was in the early 20th century. (words like mayhap). I couldn't get a handle on the setting and that bothered me. I thought...early 20th century, though it could have been earlier/rural/northern clime...always cold and snowing. I loved the father...bravely trapping game to put food on the table for ...more
Oct 23, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it
Dessa Dean is a strong,caring,scared girl, who just wants a friend. With her mother, who just died in a snow storm, with her father always hunting, shes stuck at home. Dessa has been having many nightmare and so called daymares about her mothers situation. Will Dessa Dean ever get over these terrible problems? Its almost Christmas for Dessa, and shes worried it won't be the same without her mother. Then there was a scrachin' at the door. It was a brown,big,silky,hazel eyed dog. The two have spen ...more
Penny Peck
Oct 20, 2011 Penny Peck rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-ya
Leanin' Dog is a remarkable tween novel because there are only three characters - Dessa Dean, her father, and the dog. Taking place over a few days before Christmas, Dessa Dean and her father live in a backwoods area where he can hunt for their food. The mother has recently died, freezing to death in the woods and needing insulin, so I am not sure when the story takes place. It has a 1930's-1950's feel but could even be a contemporary story. Dessa Dean has both nightmares and "daymares" about fr ...more
Kristy Sikora
Oct 03, 2010 Kristy Sikora rated it really liked it
This is a heartwarming story set in Colorado in the 1930s. A girl, Dessa Dean, has recently experienced her diabetic mother's tragic death in a snowstorm where she and Dessa Dean were trapped outside. During the storm, Dessa suffered frostbitten ears and watched her mother pass away. She is traumatized by this and hasn't left her house in over a month. She suffers from daymares which she is trying to hide from her father who works hard to make ends meet for he and Dessa Dean. When De
May 12, 2009 Christiane rated it really liked it
Just over a month ago Dessa Dean and her mother were lost in a snow storm. By the time her father found them her mother had frozen to death. Dessa Dean suffers from frostbit ears, nightmares and is unable to leave the warmth and safety of the cabin. Her trapper father is gone most of the day, leaving her alone and lonely until one day a brown dog comes scratching at the door. The book is fairly slow moving and descriptive, with a lot of detail of Dessa Dean's life in the isolated cabin that may ...more
Oct 18, 2010 Jay rated it liked it
Shelves: read-aloud, re-read, 2010
This turned out to be a really good story to read at Christmas time, so I guess I'm glad my reading of it was delayed. I started reading it aloud to my three kids in October, but then a book we'd had on reserve at the library came in and we had to finish that one in two weeks. So we switched read-aloud books (first time ever). In that time, two of my kids finished "The Leanin' Dog" on their own. The third said he didn't want to hear the rest. Once I finally believed him, I read it on my own. It ...more
Imagination Meg
Feb 02, 2016 Imagination Meg rated it really liked it
Shelves: re-reading
This is a heartwarming story about the relationship between a girl and her dog. Definitely for kids, but enjoyable as a read with a son/daughter. Basically, this book is about Dessa Dean, who has lost her mother and still has nightmares and daymares about it. She has not been able to go outside since no matter how hard she tries. But then, then comes a dog who changes her world, protects her life and soul, and loves her. It's just what she needs to be healed. I loved the way that the book was wr ...more
West Region,
The Leanin’ Dog, by K. A. Nuzum

Dessa Dean is scared to leave the porch. If she goes any farther than the door she starts shaking and has a “daymare”. A daymare is like a nightmare but is in the daytime when you are awake. Why is Dessa like this?

It all started a few months ago when Dessa and her mom were lost in a snowstorm in the wilderness where they live. Jack Frost took Dessa’s mom away from her. Now Dessa is afraid to go outside. Jack Frost might get her too.

One day a dog shows up at the ca
A nice listen. I'm not sure if it was the cadence of the reader's voice, or her tone or pronunciations or what, but in the beginning she sounded quite reminiscent of the way the characters would talk in a Charlie Brown cartoon.

A couple of phrases seemed to be overused ("mayhap" and "of a sudden") but that could be more because they are strange to my ears and stood out to me.

I enjoyed this story. Dessa Dean and the dog found each other when they both needed someone. I loved how the dog immediate
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