Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Almost Perfect" Book Tour

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. . .

My Thoughts...

ALMOST PERFECT was a sensitive hoped-filled story about a friendship between a troubled young boy and an older woman who was a dog breeder of show dog standard poodles. Their friendship slowly blooms in and out of dog show arenas. It was refreshing to read a pet themed book that will leave a lasting impression on your heart.

I think this is a book that would be enjoyed by people of all ages, young and old alike. And especially if you are a dog lover and happen to follow the Westminster Dog Show each February. I found ALMOST PERFECT to be a charming and delightful read.

I enjoyed it enough to award it 4 'doggy paws' stars.

Since this book revolves around the Westminster Dog Show and this year that show takes place from Feb 16-17​, 2015, I have included the link to the site: http://www.westminsterkennelclub.org

I did not receive any type of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. While I receive free books from publishers and authors I am under no obligation to write a positive review.

Author Interview with Diane Daniels Manning

Q1: Why did you write ALMOST PERFECT?

I had the desire to tell a story about wanting something so much you can’t give it up even when you try. To illustrate that, I combined two things I care about passionately: emotionally-needy children like Benny and my pet Standard poodle. A Best in Show at Westminster was my choice as the vehicle to illustrate the wanting.

Q2: A stereotype of Westminster is that it is for rich snobs and professional dog breeders who care only about purebred dogs. Most of the characters in your book are wealthy. Is that because the perceptions are true?

Not at all. Raising dogs costs a lot of money. Even for an individual family with one dog there are vet bills, boarding fees, food, grooming for breeds like poodles, and so on. Obviously, this means that some of the top dogs in the country are owned by people who can afford all that and sometimes even the additional cost of a professional handler. But people of very modest means have triumphed at Westminster, too. The real value of the show is shining a light on dogs, whether purebred or mutt. Otherwise 3.4 million Americans wouldn’t be glued to their televisions and computers to watch.

Q3: How much of ALMOST PERFECT is autobiographical?

I don’t show dogs, but I am the Co-Founder and Executive Director of a therapeutic school for smart children who need extra social and emotional support that is the model for the New Hope School.

Q4. In your real therapeutic school in Houston, do you use pet therapy as part of the curriculum?

At The New School in the Heights, I have witnessed the healing power of animals, in this case dogs, to help children who have never been able to make a friends before. In ALMOST PERFECT, the two Standard Poodles McCreery and Breaker accomplish this for seventy year-old Bess and Benny, an ADHD, mildly autistic twelve year-old, who together take both dogs to Westminster. Technically, neither Breaker or McCreery are official therapy dogs, but they function in a therapeutic way. 

Q5: Do you write every day?

I try, but it is often impossible with the demands of my work which often seems to use up the creative part of my brain. If I go too long without writing, it makes me irritable, and the only way to calm myself is to sit down at my laptop and shut everything else out. It’s almost like a vacation.

Q6. How old were you when you knew you wanted to write?

I was eight years-old and in third grade when I wrote my first story with the idea I would grow up to be an author. I was thrilled at all the yellow lined papers I had filled! My father was a writer and my brother, so the desire runs in the family.

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.


  1. Wonderful review and interview, Gigi Ann! The premise of this book sounds interesting, and I'm glad you enjoyed it.

  2. Hello Gigi Ann I am so glad I found your site I was visiting Becky Povich site and found your wonderful blog.
    I am looking forward to getting to know you and am now your newest follower.
    Enjoyed reading this review of Almost Perfect. I think I will enjoy it myself.

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

  4. Nice review and interview! The book sounds like a good one, I enjoy watching the Westminster Dog Show.