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The Leanin' Dog

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  1,214 ratings  ·  232 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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Average rating 3.87  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,214 ratings  ·  232 reviews

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Aug 31, 2008 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
Maci Fischler
Nov 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I thought this book was okay. At some parts I thought the story was exciting and at others I thought the story was just dragging along. If you like animal books you should try reading this book, but I was not a fan so I would not recommend it.
Jan 18, 2010 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
Aug 14, 2008 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! ...more
Rosemary Sullivan
Dec 02, 2016 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
Sep 29, 2009 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 4–7— 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 beyon
Oct 01, 2012 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 Uden
Jan 24, 2009 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 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. ...more
Linda Spyhalski
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2018
Just a short and easy read book but the story is very touching. A young girl loses her mother in the worse way possible and from that point on is scared of venturing out of her house until a big old dog just as scared as she is appears at their door. He becomes her angel and she his as so often happens with animals. Sad, funny and a fun book to read!
Matthew Winner
Aug 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
YES for our library.

The almost "slow like molasses" pace of this story perfectly matches its setting and characters are realistically drawn.

An excellent read for the classroom or for parents to read with their children. Many talking points.
Bellaandalice Cullen

Love this book xoxoxo leah
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Boring in the beginning but then it gets really good
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i think this was a heart warming great story!
Colson Trollope
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In the book, "The Leanin' Dog" by K.A. Nuzum, the story tells the life of a girl named Dessa Dean. And Dessa lost her mother not to long ago and memories haunt her in her mind. But As Christmas comes closer, she is constantly alone in the cabin while her father is outside hunting for the long winter. But one day she was surprised with a dog with a broken leg on her porch. The dog reminds her of herself broken and worn out, and the dog gives her motivation to be strong against her mother's death. ...more
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, finished
Nice story that addresses a child's loss of her mother. She has PTSD and relives the situation she and her mother were in when her mother died. These episodes happen to her once or twice a day, so its caused her to become house bound and to doubt her sanity. The story is set in the 1930's in Colorado and told in the dialect of that area and era. At that time PTSD and its treatment hadn't been known so she lives alone with her father who is a tracker and gone most of the day. While she's struggli ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Cute story about overcoming your fears and appreciating what you have.
Told in the first person, Dessa Dean needs a friend. Having recently lost her mother, she is living in a cabin far from town with just her father. It is winter and she is lonely and afraid to leave the cabin because of what happened, but doesn't want her father to worry about her. One day Dessa hears a scratching and finds a dog with a hurt paw. When an event occurs, Dessa finds the strength to leave the cabin. Slowly, the two
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Susan Smith
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-aloud, children, 2019
Story about a girl who is dealing with the trauma of her mother's death. A big brown dog helps her to overcome some of her issues. I read it for my daughter, looking for a read-aloud for her upper elementary class. I think I liked it because my granddog is a big chocolate lab. ...more
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
good classroom read aloud
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was pretty good. I liked this book because of all the love and partnership in it. Really good book.
Justice Simpson
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book!
Jan 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a very sweet story, filled with adventure, hardship and love. I am not sure how it was on my reading list but I am very glad I read it.
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
if I could I would rate this 10000000 by far my favorite book have read in a long time
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
LOVE this book. Made me so sad and happy at the same time. I would like to read it again ;)
Lana Kamennof-sine
Nov 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A powerful story set in the thirties. Not your usual juvenile read. Depth in plot and characters.
Dec 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
This is a sad book, but full of hope that life can continue after trauma. Loved the intertwined story of protagonist and dog. The dad was well portrayed.
Clara Fletcher
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing with a great plot twist in the end!
Jordan Scott
Jan 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I loved it
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