Fifty-five years ago, Helen L. Taylor took John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and simplified the vocabulary and concepts for young readers, while keeping the story line intact. The result was a classic in itself, which has now sold over 600,000 copies. It’s both a simple adventure story and a profound allegory of the Christian journey through life, a delightful read with a message kids ages 6 to 12 can understand and remember. A new look and fresh illustrations for today’s children enlivens the journey to the Celestial City.
While recently studying John Bunyan, a Christian preacher from the 17th century and the famous author of The Pilgrim’s Progress – a widely read book in Christian households for several centuries, we decided to take a small break from the historical fiction novels that accompany our history studies and turn to a literature selection for a week or so. John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress in two parts in 1678 and 1684. In it, while telling a tale of a heroic, medieval style quest & pilgrimage, he communicates to his readers the struggles, temptations, challenges and ultimately the redemption of the Christian choosing to follow the straight and narrow path through life.
Instead of reading the actual Pilgrim’s Progress, which would probably be a bit dry for Otter’s taste, I decided to read Little Pilgrim’s Progress instead. It was a HUGE hit (thanks Mom for giving us our first copy!). Even though Otter is older than the suggested age range, he (and I!!) had a wonderful time picking apart and discussing all of the Christian allegory, while enjoying a good, old-fashioned tale of adventure.
Little Pilgrim’s Progress perfectly adapts The Pilgrim’s Progress for a younger audience but stays fairly true to the original story. It covers two main stories: the journey of Christian, a boy from the City of Destruction and his journey to the Celestial City and then, later, the story of Christiana, a young girl who, afterwards, follows the same road at a more leisurely pace on the path forged by Christian.
This is NOT a watered down story that side-steps ugliness. There is plenty of fighting (complete with swords and armor), nasty creatures set on killing unsuspecting travelers, temptations, traps, cruelty and even death. Though the book doesn’t shy from these types of situations, I still think it appropriate for all ages, except the VERY young (4 or 5) who might be upset or scared by some of the circumstances the young travelers find themselves in.
As Christian and his counterparts travel the path to the Celestial Kingdom, various virtues and vices are highlighted in different characters and settings. The children encounter a variety of places that correspond to different stops along the real road of life such as the Slough of Despond (depression), The Valley of Humiliation, The Hill of Difficulty, and others such as the City of Vanity Fair.
Vanity Fair is described as follows in the book,
“The Wicked Prince…had built this city, which was called Vanity Fair, just beyond the Dark Valley and the wilderness, because he knew that when the pilgrims reached its gates they would be feeling tired and faint, and he hoped that it would then be easy to persuade them to stay there, instead of going farther on the Way of the King.
So he filled the great city with everything that was pleasant and beautiful… and the Wicked Prince took care to give them plenty of things to enjoy so that they might never have a moment to spare in which to think of the King whom they had forsaken.”
Wow. That could have been written about TODAY!
Even though this book is a bit old-fashioned and based on a 17th century classic, the messages and lessons sprinkled liberally in The Little Pilgrim’s Progress are timeless and applicable to every Christian’s life. I highly recommend it. Even if you are a secular family, picking apart the allegory wrapped up in this enjoyable story is a worthwhile enterprise.
Also, there is an “Adventure Guide” available that will help you discover the Biblical themes and literature concepts while reading the story. I wish I would have known about this when we read it:
“The Guide breaks the novel down into two parts – Christian’s journey and Christiana’s journey. Each journey is separated into four reading sections. These reading sections include vocabulary, questions, allegorical interpretations, literature elements, Bible application, character charts and character matching. A Parent/Teacher Helps section is also included which offers detailed suggestions regarding story charts. In addition, a mapping bulletin board that can also be used as a game is included. Finally, this section includes several art and literature extensions.” quote from Amazon
In this 60th anniversary edition of Little Pilgrim’s Progress, each chapter has been enhanced with attractive chapter headings. Older illustrations are featured throughout the story that feel old-fashioned and are pen and ink drawings. The cover is beautiful and shows Christian fighting Giant Despair. This is a book to read to your children and save for your grandchildren! I wish I had read Little Pilgrim’s Progress to my older children. I’m just really glad I pulled it off the shelf to read to Otter. It’s no wonder the original story has been treasured for hundreds of years and we will both remember it for the rest of our lives.
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