Michele Wallace Campanelli
“Baton” by Michele Wallace Campanelli is a story about a yellow Goldendoodle named Baton and his journey toward finding a loving home. Through encounters with a feisty cat, a compassionate conductor, and the influence of music, Baton learns valuable lessons about friendship, empathy, and the meaning of belonging. The story also captures the profound impact that animals can have on our lives.
Children will learn the importance of empathy and understanding. Throughout the story, Baton and Cottonball, the cat, start off as adversaries, constantly trying to outdo each other. However, when Baton accidentally steals the conductor’s stick, he soon realizes the significance it holds for the conductor. Cottonball, showing empathy and compassion, convinces Baton to return it, leading to a truce between them. Finding common ground and working together for the greater good is possible despite differences or conflicts. Mistakes can be rectified, and individuals can grow and learn from their past actions.
Through this beautifully illustrated book, the writer advocates for the prevention of animal cruelty and encourages readers to consider the welfare of animals in their own lives. As a puppy, Baton was abandoned and left in the forest because he had made a mistake. Sadly, his actions led to him being unclaimed and left without a home. From being a lonely and neglected puppy to finding a loving family, Baton’s experience raises awareness about the need for compassion towards animals. This also resonates with the universal desire for acceptance and belonging. The conductor’s compassion and the boy’s willingness to care for Baton display the power of love and animals’ impact on our lives (e.g., pets and therapy dogs).
Last but not least, Campanelli subtly conveys the role of music not only in creating harmony and joy but also in the healing and uplifting effect it can have. This was through the conductor’s son’s illness and the therapeutic influence of his dad’s symphony music.
Why is the dog’s name “Baton,” and what is his connection with the conductor’s tool? Read along to appreciate a story that interlaces music, friendship, healing, and the journey to finding a forever home. In a society that often feels polarized, we can always choose to empathize with one another—including animals. Through its gentle approach, this book offers many valuable lessons to readers of all ages.
– The Moving Words Review
Official Entry: The Most Moving Book Award, Jan. 3, 2024