Friday, May 30, 2014

Diane Daniels Manning's Almost Perfect is..."Almost Perfect" in My Opinion...

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
WIFT Short Script Competition.
Almost Perfect is a book that can be read by a variety of people and will be affected in quite different ways. It definitely is suitable for anybody at the grade school level who is able to begin enjoying comprehensive novels. As we know, that varies from child to child. In fact that is very well recognized in the school which is part of the story. Many young children will find it a fun book about a boy and his two special dogs and be thrilled how the story proceeds... But that's only the surface story...

For myself, I found Bess as the character I watched. She's just at the point that she thinks it is time to give up her business and retire...but a young boy came into her life and along the way thereafter, she was forced to confront and fact many issues...

For dog lovers, handlers, owners and those involved with show dogs, I consider this as a must-read fun novel that you won't want to miss.  I was fortunate to have a cat judge in my extended family so I'm quite acquainted with the rigors of the shows on those that work them, as well as for owners and the animals themselves... The author has done an excellent job, in my opinion, of revealing not only the actual shows, but the feelings, jealousies, and hopes and dreams of all those who find they want to strive to recognize their loved animals in this way...

I think the most important part, however, may be about the purpose of the school and those special children who attend... There will be several spotlighted so I'll stop now and just mention that it's an outstanding YA novel for quite a number of reasons...

As many know, when I find this type of book in my hands, I want to know the academic credentials on the author...What you will read in this terrific, realistic, yet simple novel [for many] is what many will recommend due to its encouragement and discussion of hard work and goal-setting. Kudos on this fine book in that regard. But, there is much more expertise than is available to astute readers if specifically looking for it and/or just recognize it as the underlying reasons behind each of the characters...  Therefore the author's credentials are being highlighted right at the beginning. This review may be longer than the norm as well so that I can try to spotlight different issues that may be important to potential readers...  In many ways, I point out that this book is "Almost Perfect"...
Benny Neusner sat on the front porch of the New Hope
School shivering in the cole December air. His shrink,
Dr. Kate, would say he was angry because his mother
was late again. The stupid divorce judge said he could
see her every Wednesday after school and every other
weekend, but what good was that when a mother was as
busy as his? Sometimes he didn't see her for weeks at
a stretch. The rest of the time he had to live with his dad
and, worse yet, his stepmother Sonya.

Benny lived with his father as decided by the court.

That day when his mother was late, he heard something.
It sounded like something crying.

Benny had always wanted a dog but his father refused to 
allow it. Still, when he heard the crying, he just had to see 
what was going on somewhere in that big house.

When Benny met Bess that day, his world was also turned
upside down.

Of course, Benny meeting McCreery might have been just
as important!  When the boy and dog met, they immediately
became friends. And since Bess was closing the business, he
wanted to buy McCreery. But, McCreery had been with Bess
since he had been born  and naturally were closer. 

Benny had ADHD. In fact, all the children at his school
were special-needs children. Each were treated
independently based upon his or her special needs.


Hypothermia. The newspaper saved him so far, but we've got
to get more warmth into him. She nodded. Her fingers were
tingling with cold after holding the puppy only a few seconds.
She glanced around the room for a solution. There was only
one. She opened her flannel shirt and tucked the icy body
For answer, she slumped down on the floor, her back resting
against the whelping box. The shallow rise and fall of the
puppy's chest fell into rhythm with hers...
Automatically, she rubbed her forefinger gently across the
crown of his head.

While Benny and Bess were becoming acquainted, Benny
had a new friend at school!

Steffie was new to the school, having been moved 
from school
 to school. Her mother thought she had 
a specific type of 
autism and kept reacting to Steffie based 
upon how she was
being described in a medical dictionary.
Steffie was acting out, just to make an impression on her
mother and Benny seemed to be the one person to whom she
could be open. Benny was beginning to see girls as friends!

Benny's shrink who works at the school is an excellent role 
model and has just the right thing to say to students. But
when Benny begins matchmaking for her to connect with
Bess's son, there are personal feelings she has to deal with 
for herself.

As you can see, I could continue to talk about this book--about 
Bess's twin sister for instance...The characters are wonderful
and, like I said, also contribute a personal issue for readers.
So in many ways, this book is indeed for all ages!

And I didn't even talk about what happened at the dog shows! 

What makes it "almost perfect"? Well how about a surprise 
far from what we expected... LOL  Ya Got to Check It Out!


Bess Rutledge is a 70-year-old owner of a Standard Poodles breeding, training, and showing business that has become well-known for champion show winners.
Umpawaug Kennels, Elizabeth Rutledge, Breeder/Owner
 She has come to the age when she must do some serious thinking about keeping her business. And at the beginning of the story has decided to close, turning over the last of her business to her former top rival in town. Her dog McCreery has been mated recently and Bess retains right of first choice which she was also going to give up...

Until she meets Benny and her whole world turns upside down.

Benny is a student at a neighbor school [Note tnny hat the author identifies this school at the ending of the book, so I am using actual pictures if available...]

They hadn't asked him where he wanted to live! There had been a lot of changes since he married Sonya, including his having to attend this school. He loved his mother very much and missed her, He forgave her though because of how much she had to least until he was older and started to learn better...
On that day, though, when Benny came to find out what    the crying was, he learned that puppies were being born and Bess ultimately offered one of the new puppies.  But along the way, there were many hurt feelings, anger and discussions.
Breaker, however, joined
the family...

Benny flopped onto his bed and stared up at the ceiling certain for he was the

most miserable boy in Fairfield County.
His mother was late picking him up
for their weekend together; he
hadn't seen his friend Steffie all
week. and Sonya had taken away his
game player just because he said he
had emptied the dishwasher when
what he meant was that he was
about to get around to it...

Handlers at Dog Show

Benny and Bess's son soon became friends, having the same issue to discuss...I've already given a clue!

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