The Leanin’ Dog by K.A. Nuzum
Eleven year old Dessa Dean knows exactly how many days ago she watched her mother freeze to death. The shock and trauma of the event has left many scars….a bad case of frost bite may be the easiest to deal with. Harder are the night and day mares as well as a deep fear of going outside beyond the porch of her home in the Colorado Mountains. As Christmas approaches, Dessa Dean’s father struggles to bring enough food home from hunting and trapping to feed their tiny family and Dessa Dean fights to convince herself she “isn’t daft” from grieving when a fudge-brown dog shows up at their place.
The stray dog clearly has experienced trauma of her own as she will not come into the house without a LOT of coaxing ….and certainly will not stay with the door shut despite the cold weather. As hero dogs will, Leanin’ Dog’s love and devotion to Dessa Dean begin to pull the girl out of her grief and toward life. Will Dessa Dean be able to handle walking in the outside world again? Will Leanin’ Dog trust Dessa Dean as a friend and master? The answers to these questions are what the reader works toward in this book nominated for a 2012 Virginia Readers Choice Award--in the Middle School category. As the book jacket suggests, “Angels are everywhere.”
From the language, spelling, reference to an Indian-head nickel and lack of running water or electric in the house, readers know that this is a story from the past. That might confuse readers in grades 4-6 a bit. However, the focus of the story on Dessa Dean’s relationship with the dog is strong and clear and that is what kids will want to discover.
Author K.A. Nuzum has provided additional information about herself and this book at: http://www.kanuzum.com/leanin_dog.html
The Leanin’ Dog has been named a School Library Journal Best Book, been placed on the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award Masterlist (Vermont) and has received an IRA children’s and Young Adult’s Book Award.
Nuzum, K.A. The Leanin' Dog. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. Print.