Trouper (the three-legged dog)

    A picture book illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Scholastic)

    Watch the trailer:



    About the Book

    A moving story of a three-legged stray dog who finds a loving boy to call his own–illustrated by Caldecott Honor Book artist E.B. Lewis. Based on a true story.

    Trouper ran with a mob of mutts who tripped over trash cans and pawed the cold streets for bones. They howled and cried and wished for a home. Until one day, the dogs are captured from off the streets and put in cages in a shelter as they wait to be adopted. Trouper watches sadly as, one by one, each of his dog friends are chosen. He’s the only one left until finally, one lucky day, just the right boy comes around and finds that this three-legged mutt is the perfect pet for him!


    Trouper as a Teaching Tool

    Trouper is one of the picture books featured in Craft Moves: Lessons for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts by Stacey Shubitz. Craft Moves has been described as “an enduring present to teachers—a way to think about their writing classrooms and support their writers in a journey toward greater independence and success. Stacey Shubitz gives teachers a professional book about mentor text to serve as a springboard to inspire writers in K-6 classrooms everywhere.”  Buy Craft Moves on

    Meg loves visiting elementary schools to talk about and write poems with children based on the Trouper book. Educator Stacey Shubitz also provides teachers with Trouper lesson plans in her book Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts (Stenhouse Publishers; New edition, June 1, 2016)


    Trouper” vs. “Trooper”

    By the time I adopted my dog Trouper, he was about two years old and already had his name—spelled “Trooper.” But if you want to express that someone is amazing for having overcome adversity without complaint, that person (or dog!) is a “trouper.” So we changed the spelling of Trouper’s name, wanting children to learn the right connotation of the word. (A “Trooper” is actually a mounted policeman or state police officer!)We were heartbroken to lose Trouper in January 2018. By our estimates, he was well over 14 years old. We take comfort in the thought that his book carries on his legacy of love.


    Reactions for Trouper from

    More Reviews


    Publisher’s Weekly (November 2013)

    The premise of Kearney’s (The Girl in the Mirror) story of canine adoption is moving in itself; that it’s based on her own rescue of a black Lab only amplifies its poignancy. An introductory note explains the story of the real Trouper, a Puerto Rican street dog rescued by the owners of an animal shelter, who arranged to have his mangled leg amputated and then put him up for adoption. The fictional Trouper (who already has only three legs) narrates his version of events in verse, telling his young owner about “the before time” when he “ran with a mob of mutts.” After a dogcatcher captures the strays and locks them in cages at the pound, Trouper’s pals are adopted one by one, until he is the only dog left (“My heart was a cold, starless night—/ until your face/ shone through the bars/ like a mini sun”). Caldecott Honor illustrator Lewis (Coming on Home Soon) used Kearney’s pet as a model for his lifelike watercolor portraits, which provide a sure sense of the dog’s indefatigable spirit. (Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Dwyer & O’Grady.)


    Kirkus (October 2013)

    Trouper, a three-legged stray dog, narrates the story of his life to his new owner in this compelling, beautifully illustrated book based on a true rescue story.

    Although the circumstances of Trouper’s early life are hard, readers feel hope, since they know from the opening lines that he is describing “[b]ack in the before time, / … / before the place you picked me out.” They will be deeply moved by Trouper’s poetic, sensory language and his keen observation; the boys on the street throw stones at the dogs because they “thought the world was mean, / and so they had to be.” In contrast, it is a boy with gentle hands who adopts Trouper after he and his mob are brought to the shelter—but not before Trouper nearly despairs, stating, “My heart was a cold, starless night— // until your face / shone through the bars / like a mini sun.” Lewis’s evocative watercolors capture the stark setting and the scrappy dogs, especially dear, noble Trouper at both his lowest moment and during his rescue—his adoption—secure in the boy’s embrace. After he describes the pleasures of his new home, readers at last see dog and boy running, leaving “five footprints in the snow.”

    Sure to tug the heartstrings, this is a lovely and satisfying tale. (Picture book. 4-8)


    School Library Journal (October 2013)

    K-Gr 2–Trouper, a tough three-legged dog, scavenges for food in the streets with a pack of other homeless mutts while “dodging the stones, thrown by boys, who thought the world was mean, and so they had to be.” One day, a dogcatcher captures them and takes them to the pound. Though people come and take all the other dogs, no one seems to want Trouper until a kind boy finally adopts him. Narrated in free verse from Trouper’s perspective, this tale’s voice rings authentically canine (if dogs could write stories, that is). Lewis’s characteristic watercolor illustrations laid out in full pages and spreads masterfully accompany Kearney’s apt tone, deftly depicting Trouper’s varied emotions, from his despondency at being left alone in the shelter to his exuberant joy when running with his new owner. A touching story of hope, friendship, and transcending appearances.

    — Yelena Alekseyeva-Popova, formerly at Chappaqua Library, NY



    International Reading Association, Reading Today Online (December 2013)

    This picture book captures perfectly the universal desire for a home and someone to love. Even stray dogs long for a forever home and some comfort. Trouper is part of a large dog pack of various sizes and breeds. As they search for a meal, they cause disorder, and they endure cruelty from others. When a dogcatcher lures them into his truck, the pack ends up at a shelter. All of them are adopted except three-legged Trouper, whose lonely heart “was a cold, starless night” (unpaged) once his friends have left. Luckily for him, though, a tender-hearted boy adopts him and brings him home. The bond between the two is clear in the final illustrations.

    The text is filled with beautiful language that pays tribute to a brave dog and a boy who sees beneath an imperfect surface into that dog’s spirit, while the watercolor illustrations capture perfectly the dog’s anxiety, loneliness, and joy at having found someone “who liked the way I lean on those I love” (unpaged). Not only will this book inspire some to add a dog to their family, but it may convert a few feline lovers into canine aficionados. This is a wonderful book for sharing aloud and evoking a sense of compassion in others.

    —Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman