Diane Daniels Manning's ALMOST PERFECT

Book Synopsis:

Two unlikely friends, an old woman and a boy with special needs, take an aging champion to Westminster Dog Show, and heal their troubled families.

Seventy year-old Bess Rutledge has fantasized about winning the Westminster Dog Show all her life, but now she has decided she is too old to follow her dream. She meets Benny, an angry fourteen year-old with mild autism and ADHD, who has a dream of his own: to impress his self-absorbed mother. He becomes convinced that winning Westminster with McCreery, Bess’ aging champion standard poodle, will finally make his mother proud of him. Getting Bess to go along with his plan, however, is not going to be so easy.

Q1. Did you have a particular purpose in mind when you decided to write ALMOST PERFECT?
I started out wanting to write about a woman who had done something unusual for her time, but nothing was working right. When the character of Benny came along, everything started to click. The story was more driven by the characters than any particular purpose I had in mind—although I was compelled by the idea that the old woman, Bess, never gave up her dream, even though she was late in pursuing it.

Q2. Why did you pick the Westminster dog show as the goal to bring Benny and Bess together?
Westminster is the second oldest sporting event in America after the Kentucky Derby. People all over the world watch it on television and the internet. My character Benny decides winning Westminster is the best way to make his parents proud of him.

                       Westminster Kennel Club

Q3. Can dogs (and other animals) be therapeutic, even if they aren’t official therapy dogs?
The dogs in ALMOST PERFFECT are not official therapy dogs, but many dogs and many kinds of animals can be therapeutic, even without the special training and vetting of accredited therapy dogs. Some children at our school prefer the official therapy cat who comes with the dogs. We also have an unofficial “therapy cat” who comes to the school every day for some attention while her owners are at work. We provide a kind of kitty day care.

Q4. Do you have a therapy dog yourself?
I have owned Standard poodles for years, but none of them were officially designated as therapy dogs. However, they all came to work with me every day, and certain children were drawn to them. One boy in particular was quite explosive at school and at home, but for some reason I trusted him with my dog much more than other calmer children.
He grew up to be a gentle giant and now works as a special education teacher.

Q5. You mention The Mark Twain Library in Redding, Connecticut, a couple of times in ALMOST PERFECT.
Is it a real place?
I grew up in the real town of Redding, Connecticut where Samuel Clemens actually founded the town library now known as the Mark Twain Library. As a young child I remember being in awe of documents written in his own hand and dreamed of being a writer myself.

Q6. Do you have certain rituals you must follow in order to write?
If I’m on a roll, nothing can stop me from carrying my laptop with me and keeping on.
The strangest time was when I had an appointment with my hairdresser that I couldn’t miss, so I sat in the salon and worked the whole time, barely putting the computer aside for the shampoo bowl. Obviously, that kind of drive doesn’t happen often!

Visit the author's WEBSITE to check out the first chapter.

Book Trailer:​

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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 dealing with social-emotional challenges find success in school and life. She has a Ph.D. in Education and a post-doctoral M.P.H from Harvard and is a practicing child psychoanalyst certified by the American Psychoanalytic Association. Formerly, she was the Director of the Reading and Learning Disabilities Clinic at Tufts University, Lecturer and Research Associate in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Harvard, and Chair of the Department of Education at Tulane University. She learned the inner workings of dog show kennels by writing an authorized oral history of a lifetime President of the Poodle of Club of America. Her writing awards include the Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the Women in Film and Television Short Script Competition.

When not at The New School, Diane and her writing partners, a Standard Poodle named Misty and a rescue cat named Elvira, convene at the keyboard to share great thoughts and plan the dinner menu.

Connect with her:  Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook

Benny has some learning challenges and attends a school designed to help him grow and deal with life's irregularities.
Bess had a lifelong dream of raising the best quality show and breeding poodles in the United States.
She spent so much time and attention on her goal that she did not see and appreciate the other gifts life offered her.
You would never imagine two so very different people would be able to build a friendship between them.

This story is about both humans and dogs, about juggling relationships as they change over time.
People of all ages desire recognition, acceptance and love. So do dogs.
No one wants a broken heart or to lose their dreams.
What will happen as these lives are exposed under the spotlights?

There are highs and lows as this tale unfolds.
We come to care about secondary characters, both canine and human, along with the main ones.
There is a quirkly young girl who attends Benny's school for a brief time 
that I would love to see get a book of her own.
This story is a journey that touches the heart.


​and ​
 #​fiction #autism #dogshow​


  1. Thank you for reading and reviewing ALMOST PERFECT, and good luck to everyone who enters the Trivia Contest on my site (www.dianedanielsmanning.com)! Sincerely, – Diane Daniels Manning, author, ALMOST PERFECT

  2. I was re-reading your thoughtful review and your comment about Steffie having her own book really touched me. I would like to do that. I'll keep thinking.
    Diane Daniels Manning


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