“Almost Perfect” Diane Daniels Manning

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. 2014. Beltor. (Includes Author’s Note, Almost Perfect Book Club Guide, and Suggestions For Further Reading.)

AlmostPerfectFourteen-year-old Benny Neusner goes to the New Hope School for children with emotional and behavioral problems. Filled with anger because of his parent’s divorce, he tries hard to please an irresponsible mother who frequently breaks promises to him. Now living with his father and stepmother, Benny is upset because he has not been allowed to have a dog. He is sure a dog will help him through his loneliness but, with his stepmother focused on his imperfections and weight issues, and his dad insisting he get good grades, he feels hopeless.

Benny flounders along helped by counseling sessions with his psychiatrist Dr. Kate, who tries to get him to be more assertive and less dependent on pleasing his mother. When he meets Bess Rutledge, his 70-year-old neighbor, owner of the Umpawaug Kennels, Benny falls in love with her dog McCreery. Though Bess feels she is too old to breed and show championship poodles and has planned to retire, Benny takes her on a path she thought she’d never travel.

Despite not knowing anything about being a dog handler, Benny is sure he can impress his mother if he enters the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show with Breaker, McCreery’s son. With the help of Bess’ son David (who has more in common with Benny than either expected) they all manage to learn about acceptance, love, and belief in one’s dreams.

“Almost Perfect” teaches readers about not judging children by their behavioral and emotional issues, while also being a love story between dog owners and their pets. Every dog story I’ve ever read tugged on my heartstrings and made me cry, and “Almost Perfect” was no exception.

NOTE: In 99.9% of dog stories, readers grab tissues crying hysterically because the dog we grew to love died at the end of the book. I am pleased to report that no dogs died during the reading of this book.

Recommended for ages 11-14.


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