Also by this author: The Promise, The Drummer Boy, Sinner, Green, The Dream Traveler's Quest, Into the Book of Light, The Curse of Shadownman, The Garden and the Serpent, The Final Judgment, Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion, Lulu The Lost Rubber Ducky, Barton the Dream Jumper
Series: Dekker Picture Books #2
Published by Scripturo on August 18, 2022
Monty is a firefly who lives near the tree of light. But when he is tempted to eat a forbidden fruit, he loses his light and finds himself alone in the dark forest. Join him as he finds his way home and recovers his light, the same journey that we all take through this life.
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. Monty and the Tree of Light is my absolute favorite of the three books, showcasing the Father’s love for his children and the Light that they have given to all.
The Dekkers begin with a not-so-subtle retelling of the Fall in Genesis 3. Monty, a firefly, gets his light from the great tree in the middle of the forest. A tree made out of light, which is love. Monty and the fireflies are carriers of that light, spreading the light throughout the forest. But one night, a worm convinces Monty that if only he eats the berry he isn’t supposed to eat, he will become bigger and stronger than the other fireflies. As someone who was smaller and weaker than the other fireflies, this is something the Monty really wants.
Monty eats the fruit and his world changes. “You’re getting stronger,” says the worm, “Now you can go do whatever you want in your own strength.” Black armor wraps around Monty, covering up his light. When the others express shock that Monty has covered his light, his shame takes him into dark parts of the forest. In there, he finds other fireflies—ones who had forgotten they ever had any light, just living sadly in darkness. When all hope was lost, a golden, glowing butterfly appears to him, asking him if he wants to return to the Tree of Light.
Monty follows the butterfly and crashes down at the foot of the Tree of Light, crying and asking for forgiveness. The black armor cracks and breaks and Monty’s light shines through once again! That would have been a good place to close the story, but Kara and Ted offer an important addition—Monty and his friends take their light into the forest to share with those in the darkness.
Monty and the Tree of Light is an incredible story of salvation, evangelism, God’s love, redemption, community, sin, shame, and more. It’s a powerful Gospel story of how self-centeredness covers up the light of God within us, of how shame forces us to dark places, and of how the Father will always welcome back and redeem the lost.
Of the three books, the messaging in Monty and the Tree of Light is the most overt, but it fits the storytelling context. Monty’s shame at leaving the Tree of Light is evident. He says “I can’t go because the tree will never want me back now.” The butterfly who has come to help him replies, “Oh, Monty. The tree will never stop loving you.” It’s simple. It’s bold. It’s powerful. It’s the Gospel.
Once again, Shelby Kirby’s illustrations shine. Quite literally, when it comes to the depiction of the Tree of Light. It can often be difficult to express emotions correctly when illustrating anthropomorphic animals, but Kirby handles it well. The illustrations fit the tone of the text and whole conversations can be had with your kids about why certain things are drawn certain ways.
However, like the other two books, the same criticism around proofreading and sentence construction remains. Monty and the Tree of Light is the best story and is also the most well-told, but there are still flaws. For example, at one point there’s a typo where the word “ginning” is used instead of “grinning.” (And again, for “ginned” instead of “grinned.”) Comma usage is still spotty, but the sentence length and language choices are all much improved over the other two books. Still, it’s the simple things. Typos happen, but in a children’s book where there really isn’t that much text, they should be caught before everything goes to print.
Despite that, I’m still going to give Monty and the Tree of Light five stars. We need more children’s Christian books like this. The Dekkers tell a theologically sound, layered, and nuanced story of salvation that reminds readers that even at their farthest from God, the light was still within.