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Almost Perfect [Kindle Edition]

Diane Daniels Manning
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $8.99
Kindle Price: $3.99
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Book Description

An old woman who has given up hope and a boy who believes the impossible wonder if life would be perfect at the Westminster Dog Show.

Seventy-year old Bess Rutledge has dreamed of winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life. Despite her decades-long career as one of America’s top Standard Poodle breeders, she has decided she’s too old to hold on to her foolish dream. She sells off all the dogs in her once famous kennel except for the aging champion McCreery and his mischievous, handsome son Breaker. Part of her senses they might have been the ones to take her to Westminster, if only she’d dared to try.

Bess meets Benny, a teenager with mild autism who attends a therapeutic special school, and learns he has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. Benny is drawn into the world of dog shows and becomes convinced he has found the perfect way to win his mother’s attention. If he can win Westminster with either McCreery or Breaker, he just knows she will finally be proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy. . .

Up to 100% of the author’s profits will be donated to charities serving animals and children. Visit

Editorial Reviews


"A charming novel about a troubled young dog owner that will appeal to readers of all ages."
Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

DIANE DANIELS MANNING is the co-founder and director of The New School in the Heights, a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas, which helps children with social-emotional challenges. She is the former Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane and a practicing child psychoanalyst.  She learned the inner workings of dog shows by writing an oral history of a Lifetime President of the Poodle Club of America.  Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the WSIFT Short Script Competition.
Up to 100% of the author's profits will be donated to charities serving animals and children. Visit

Product Details

  • File Size: 830 KB
  • Print Length: 342 pages
  • Publisher: Beltor (January 29, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00I507TQ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #203,702 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing! July 8, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Looking at the warm and fuzzy puppy on the cover, I never expected the characters inside to be so heartbreakingly real. They're just like you and me, flawed, prone to mistakes, yearning for love. This isn't a fluffy animal tale. It deals with family issues, societal pressures and genuine emotions within the context of what it means to be a dog lover. Daniels Manning doesn't go about making her characters perfect, instead she lets them be 'almost perfect,' and in so doing makes them a whole lot more relatable.

Bess and Benny don't necessarily start out being exceptionally likable, and they're not supposed to be. In order to show their growth throughout the novel, Daniels Manning has the guts to hold a mirror up to reality. She doesn't try and sugarcoat their bad behavior, instead she shines a spotlight on it.

In the beginning, Bess is a crotchety old lady. She gives up on her dream in a very dramatic way by having her award-winning kennel bulldozed to the ground. She's done with breeding her signature line of Umpawaug poodles. She's calling it quits. Her state of mind isn't good. She's depressed, miserable, heartsick. Even after all she's accomplished in her life, she still feels like a failure because she never won the big one, best in show at Westminster.

Benny is an overweight, prepubescent boy with autism. He has a hard time sticking with any one thing. He can't seem to focus on anything besides eating. His one goal in life is to make his mother proud, and he'll do anything to get her attention. He lacks any form of self-motivation, obtaining her approval is the only thing that matters to him.

The cast also includes those of the four-legged variety and they're as fully developed as their human counterparts even if they don't utter a word of dialogue.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story for teachers and dog-lovers alike March 30, 2014
I really loved this book! It has such a sweet and hopeful message. I am a teacher and have known many students like Benny, the main character. This book may provide care-givers and teachers some insights into the inner-workings of an anxious child's mind. The author also shows what a positive affect a dog can have on a child's life. I would recommend this book to anyone who lives or works with kids who struggle to fit in.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A feel-good read! March 30, 2014
ALMOST PERFECT by Diane Daniels Manning was a heart-warming story perfect for animal lovers like me. The relationship between the two main characters, seventy year old Bess and teenager Benny, was believable. As an older reader, I especially liked that one of the characters was an older woman dealing with some of the problems of old age. Both main characters, as well as supporting characters such as Bess's son and Dr. Kate (the psychologist at Benny's school) were likeable. I cared about what happened to them which is, to me, essential to any story.
I also learned more about special schools, special students, poodles and dog shows through reading this book.
I would recommend this book to animal lovers, older readers, and anyone who wants to feel good at the end of a book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
To be accepted for who they are by those around them for a young, mildly autistic boy and a seventy year-old woman becomes a wonderful tale of discovery and a journey of healing one’s soul in the process in Diane Daniels Manning’s Almost Perfect. Benny is a disturbed young boy from a dysfunctional family. He craves love from his divorced parents, a self-absorbed mother and a father who is disappointed that HIS dreams for Benny will never come true. Add to the mix, a step-mother who is also ill-prepared to deal with Benny’s problems and the boy’s heart-wrenching life becomes the catalyst that puts him in the company of a beaten down old woman who finds little joy left in life as she prepares to close down her dreams and passion raising champion dogs.

This unlikely duo form an unusual bond as Benny is awed by her dogs, even though he claims a poodle isn’t really a dog. Gruff Bess has a chance to live her final dream to go to the world’s most prestigious dog show, but it all hinges on Benny, her old champion dog, McCreery and his last pup, a clone of himself. Bess teaches Benny to care and show dogs while Benny teaches Bess how her own self-absorption hurt her now grown son, as she paid more attention to her dogs than her child.

Diane Daniels Manning tells her tale with a steady pace, never rushing, always filling each page with heart and gritty detail. Benny and Bess’ story is not a happy romp through life, but a struggle to reach out and connect with others and feel that connection in return. She details each scene with clarity, stressing the relationships of her characters, as opposed to using the dogs as her main focus, although the life she gave to these wonderful animals is that of a trusted friend and understanding ally for those who needed them most.

Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measures, a book to be enjoyed by all ages, this character-driven plot is brilliantly done.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book about a boy and "his" dog! August 24, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning is a beautiful story about a boy and a dog, well, two dogs in this case. Benny, our young boy, attends a special school for students that don’t fit anywhere else. His parents are divorced and there are two things that he wants more than anything else in life, his mother to be proud of him and love him and a dog. His father has told him that he can’t have a dog and his mother is always letting him down, but when he meets 70 something Bess Rutledge things start to change for him.

Bess Rutledge is a poodle breeder and trainer who has always dreamed of winning big at the Westminster dog show but despite many invitations, she has never gone. When Benny showed up at her door his bond with her dog was instantaneous.

I love dogs, I love children, and I love this book. It is a great read for dog lovers and if you are reading this review then you should definitely pick it up.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read.
I really enjoyed this book. Shows how different generations and social status can bond together and grow and help each other
A young boy and an elderly lady, strangers find... Read more
Published 5 days ago by vinette dephillipe
4.0 out of 5 stars It was both a sad and happy story
This was an a enjoyable story but so unbelievable. It was both a sad and happy story. It shows .how differently adults and peers treat a child "who is different" where as... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Sara A Bone
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
l love the story because of the part the poodles played in the lives of the characters. Ends differently than I expected.
Published 10 days ago by Barb
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect
if you love dogs, this book is for you
story about the love between dogs and their human companions.
Published 10 days ago by seale.Mcse
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect
Just like the title, this book was almost perfect. Benny is a young boy with special needs whose parents are divorced. Read more
Published 11 days ago by Elise V Russell
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect
What an amazing book! The characters are extremely real and lovable, and the wonderful personalities of the poodles made this one of the most charming books I've ever read. Read more
Published 11 days ago by grtgram
5.0 out of 5 stars love a dog story
This was a dog story but also so much more. It's relationships and special people who are just people like everyone else. Coming of age for Benny. Love for many others. Read more
Published 12 days ago by ev
5.0 out of 5 stars A really enjoyable read
This book kept me reading into the early morning hours and as soon as I could I read it until I finished. It made me smile and it made me cry. Read more
Published 12 days ago by I Am Retired
5.0 out of 5 stars What a sweet story. I hated to see it end and ...
What a sweet story. I hated to see it end and just would have liked to read the reaction Bess had to the new batch of puppies.
Published 13 days ago by Windy
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost Perfect
This book was well written and the characters were well portrayed. Each character was believable. The plot was intriguing. Even the dogs were believable. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Grandma
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More About the Author

Diane Daniels Manning was raised in Redding, Connecticut, the setting for her novel ALMOST PERFECT. As a youngster, she rode her bike up and down former cow paths to the Mark Twain Library where she plundered the children's shelves and fantasized she would grow up to a famous writer like Samuel Clemens.

Inevitably she was educated, taught English and reading in Connecticut, and earned a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H. from Harvard. She climbed the tenure ladder and served as Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities at Tufts University. There she became convinced that special needs children are best helped when equal attention is paid to their emotional and their academic lives. Her Standard Poodle, Bel Tor Mandy, accompanied her to work daily and taught her the therapeutic benefit of animals.

Following an appointment at Harvard School of Public Health, she moved to New Orleans where she served as Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane and became certified as a child and adult psychoanalyst by the American Psychoanalytic Association. In 2005, she moved to Houston and co-founded The New School in the Heights ( , a therapeutic school for bright children with social and emotional challenges. She continues to serve as Executive Director. 100% of book profits will be donated to charities serving children and dogs. See for details on how your charity can participate.

Diane's writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and a Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition. She learned the workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a past President of the Poodle Club of America. When not at The New School in the Heights, she and her writing partners, a Standard Poodle named Misty.

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