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In the snow-covered Colorado mountains, it's coming on Christmas. But eleven-year-old Dessa Dean has just about given up on ever being happy again. Her hardworking father can't possibly fill the huge hole in her heart that her mother's tragic death has left. Mama was her teacher, protector, confidant, and closest friend. But then, when hope has just about run out, a dog - huge and fudge-colored from head to toe - bounds into Dessa Dean's life, changing it forever.


I stayed put for another minute, and then I scootched forward, a bare two or three inches. The dog opened one eye and blinked at me and then closed it.
I scootched again.

This time she opened both eyes and lifted her head. I looked down at the porch.

"It's okay, dog. I won't hurt you. I want to be friends."

She stretched her nose out toward me, and it went crazy, sniffing quick and loud. Slowly, slowly, I moved my hand closer to her. Oh! That big brown nose was cold as ice and nice and wet. And her saggy jowls that brushed against my hand as she sniffed it all over, they were velvety soft. Her tail thumped, and she laid her head back on her front paws, and when I took my next scootch, she didn't move a whit.

Audio Excerpts

Sample 1
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Cheers for The Leanin' Dog

"Nuzum's pacing and spare, poetic narrative create something quite wonderful....This is a beautiful story in which friendship and the power of being needed trump despair."
- School Library Journal
(starred review)

"As notable for what is left unsaid as it is for its eloquent, economical prose."
- Shelf Awareness

"...readers who enjoy animal stories will no doubt find plenty to like here."
- ALA Booklist

"Gritty and engaging."
- Kirkus Reviews

"A gem!"
- Sharon Creech, Newbery Medal winner

*International Reading Association 2009 winner for Intermediate Fiction


  • 2012 Massachusetts Children's
    Book Award

  • 2012 Virginia Readers Choice Award

  • 2011 German Youth Literature Prize

  • 2011 South Dakota Prairie Pasque

  • 2011 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Masterlist (VT)

  • 2011 Grand Canyon Reader Award for Intermediate Readers (AZ)

  • 2011 Beehive Reading Award (UT)

  • 2011 Colorado Children's Book Award

  • 2011 State Book Award (ME)

  • 2011 Triple Crown Award (Austin, TX)

  • 2011 Mark Twain Reader Award (MO)

  • 2011 Children's Book Award (RI)

  • 2011 Volunteer State Book Awards (TN)

  • 2011 Children's Book Award (SC)

  • 2009 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults nominee