Almost Perfect By Diane Daniels Manning

41S3vw+9gALThis book is a great read.  In this book, there is seventy year old woman, Bess and then there is Benny, a teenager with mild autism that attends a special school.  The  two of them form a friendship from a bond over the love of dogs and both feeling misunderstood by people and both of them seem to think they connect more with dogs than people.

First there is Bess:  a seventy year old woman who has also had the dream of winning the Westminster Dog show all of her life.  However, she decides that now she is too old and decides that she needs to let go of this dream and of her dogs.  She owns a kennel of dogs and sells them all except her beloved dog, once champion of dog shows: McCreery and also keeps his puppy Breaker.  Bess has a little bit of troubled relationship with her son.  Bess feels that she was never a great mother because she thinks that she seemed to care more about her dogs and dog shows than of him.  In this book, you see this relationship develop as   Bess gets to understand her son more and her son gets to understand his mom better.  This relationship grows through Bess and her son David observing Benny.  Bess thinks that Benny reminds her much of herself.

Then you meet Benny:  the teenage boy with mild autism that attends a special school.  Benny has a difficult family life with his parents being divorced.  He lives with his Dad and his stepmom.  Benny’s Dad and Stepmom do not seem to grasp the boy’s disability and always seems to want Benny to be someone who he isn’t or else tends to set his expectations too high for Benny.     Then there is Benny’s mom who  visits Benny around “her schedule” or whenever she has time for him.  Benny just wants his mom to pay more attention to him and be proud of him.   You see a friendship starting between Bess and Benny as they spend time together through their love of dogs.  Benny begins to visit Bess’s kennel daily to see the dogs: Breaker and McCreery. Benny soon falls in love with the dogs.  Benny gets the idea of entering the Westminister: a famous dog show.  Benny thinks that if he can enter Breaker or McCreery, he thinks that his mom will pay more attention to him and finally be proud of him.  But first..he has to convince Bess to enter the Westminster show.

In this book, friendships are built, parent/child relationships are strengthen and you see how kids with disabilities each have their own talents and strengths just like everyone else.  This book shows the reader how misconceptions about kids with disabilities exist.  You see how people underestimate kids with their disabilities and their capabilities. This book can teach the reader that it is important for your self esteem to follow your dreams and to not give up on a dream, even if you think it may be foolish.    This book has many lessons for us all.  I would recommend  this book to students who are going into the field of special education, to parents with kids with special needs, social workers, teachers but really this book would be a good read for anyone.

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