Friday, May 21, 2010

Pictorial Pilgrim's Progress

John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress is widely thought of as one of the most significant works of literature in English; it's been translated into over 200 languages, and it's never fallen out of print. There is good reason for this. Not only is this allegory one of the finest ever written, but the book speaks well to Christians who know their journey on this earth won't be easy.

Pictorial Pilgrim's Progress
modernizes and shortens Bunyan's 17th century text, but still doesn't dumb things down. Each page of this mass market paperback features a black and white line drawing that takes up about half the page - sometimes more. All the main points of the original novel are still intact as Christian decides to seek Heaven, has adventures and trials along the way with people like Obstinate, Pliable, and Atheist, battles with Apollyon, journeys perilously through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and so on, until he's finally greeted warmly at the Celestial City.

What I Like: The format is good. The illustrations prevent kids from becoming bogged down in text, making this important novel - which can teach us a great deal about sticking to the narrow path - much more accessible. I also appreciate that the biblical quotations, which in the original text had no references, are clearly marked so readers can look up the quotes in context in the Bible.

I also like the delicate handling of some of the mature subjects in this book. For example, in the scenes with the Giant (who holds Christian and his friend captive), the Giant simply says "they would likely never get out alive and that they had better take their own lives." But the two pilgrims "refused to kill themselves." Period.

When Christian's friend is martyred by burning at the stake, no detail is given, and the accompanying illustration isn't gruesome. Too, the images of Apollyon (Satan), which are often disturbing in other illustrated versions of Pilgrim's Progress, does the job of showing the Dragon without stirring up nightmares later.
What I Dislike:
The illustrations by Joanne Brubaker, while helpful and likeable, are slightly old fashioned, having originally been published in 1960. But I don't think this is enough to keep most kids from enjoying this book.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: The publisher doesn't specify, but I'd say tweens and teens.

Publishing Info: Moody, 1960; ISBN: 978-0802400192; paperback, $6.99

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Special Info: Read our reviews of other versions of Pilgrim's Progress.

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