Also by this author: The Dream Traveler's Quest, Into the Book of Light, The Curse of Shadownman, The Garden and the Serpent, The Final Judgment, Lulu The Lost Rubber Ducky, Monty and the Tree of Light, The Promise, The Drummer Boy, Sinner, Green, Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion
Series: Dekker Picture Books #3
Published by Scripturo on August 18, 2022
Barton is a counting sheep in a little boy’s dreams. But Barton feels out of place and longs to jump into a another dream. Join him as he jumps from dream to dream only to learn that the little boy’s dream is not only where he belongs but the most beautiful dream of all.
The latest Ted Dekker series is here! And it’s not a serial killer novel or an epic fantasy. This time, Ted has paired with his daughter, Kara Dekker, and illustrator Shelby Kirby to create a children’s picture book trilogy that explores themes like identity, belonging, love, and faith. Barton The Dream Jumper is the most inventive book of the series, telling the story of Barton, eighth of the sheep, who lives in a dream of a young boy.
The sheep’s purpose is to get that young boy to sleep, being counted as they jump over the fence. (You’d think with this being a dream, he’d already be asleep, but that’s a point I’m willing to overlook for the story’s sake.) Except Barton doesn’t feel like he fits in. All of the other sheep are better than him or more beautiful. So he jumps out of James’ dream and into another. Dream by dream, Barton will slowly learn that, even though we all feel out of place at times, we are loved exactly as we are.
The jumps from dream to dream are inventive. Barton goes from James to James’ sister to their dog to their mom. The dog’s dream is an absolute trip. I won’t spoil it, but it’s hilarious. In each dream, Barton has a place but still feels not quite at home. Eventually, the beautiful butterfly—featured as the guide or Helper in all three books—arrives to help Barton find his way back home.
Barton the Dream Jumper is a story all about finding one’s identity and purpose and coming to understand that you are loved just as you are. It’s about leaning into the purpose for which you were created—in this case helping young James get to sleep! It’s sure to engage your little ones and leave them asking questions and starting conversations about their own place in the world. When Barton returns, he has learned that it doesn’t matter what he looks like or what others think of him, James needs him exactly as he is. That’s a powerful statement, with the implicit message being that God loves us exactly as we are.
Shelby Kirby’s illustrations continue to delight. She was given a rich tapestry to work with in this story and she takes full advantage of it. Kirby captures the frenetic, the chaotic, and the absurd as Barton jumps from dream to dream.
However, like the other two books, Barton the Dream Jumper could have benefitted from better proofreading. Just take the first two sentences of the book:
“Once upon a time there was sheep named Barton who sat on a green hill and watched the other sheep practice their jumps over the fence. It was the job of all James’ sheep to jump over the fence when their number was called so that the little boy drift off to sleep counting his sheep in order.”
In two sentences, we have two words missing. “There was sheep named Barton” should be “There was a sheep named Barton.” “So that the little boy drift off to sleep” should possibly be “could (or would) drift off to sleep.” We also have some missing commas, which are especially important in books that will be read aloud. The use of “James’” rather than “James’s” also irks me, but that’s a personal peeve. AP Style recommends no -s after the apostrophe, every other style guide does. James’ is a mostly outdated stylization that, again, hinders readability when read aloud, but it’s not technically inaccurate.
The most egregious proofreading error, though, comes at the book’s end. The whole book is about how Barton the sheep is special, has a purpose, and is loved for who he is, and has a place within James’s dream. Because he takes his place and jumps the fence, James is able to sleep. The book’s final line is:
“James soon fell fast asleep and from that day on, James never forgot how special he was.”
That second James should be Barton. Barton never forgot how special he was. It’s a simple error that should have been caught through simple proofreading, but wasn’t. It’s an unfortunate, confusing mistake that shouldn’t have happened and lowers the overall quality of the product. The story is charming, the illustrations are engaging. The storytelling in this volume shows a lack of—or at least a failure in—the editing process.
Because of that, Barton the Dream Jumper is my least favorite of the three Dekker Picture Books. It’s the weakest story with the most structural errors. Still, the message is powerful and the pictures are fun.