For being the second most widely sold book of all time (behind only the Bible), John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress seems to be falling on hard times. Despite allegorical imagery that can easily capture youthful hearts and attentions, I never even heard of the book until I had reached adulthood, even though I was raised in church, and sadly, I don’t believe that I am an anomaly in my experience.
Tyler Van Halteren, however, is doing his part to bring The Pilgrim’s Progress back into Christian homes with his children-aimed adaption, Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey. Targeted toward ages 2-10, the book faithfully recounts the pilgrimage of Christian out of the City of Destruction through locations like the Narrow Gate and the Valley of Humiliation until he at last reaches the Celestial City (by the way, they are also working on part two about Christiana’s journey).
Van Halteren’s own additions are very helpful, especially the epilogue where he summarizes how we can live as pilgrims as well by believing the King’s Word, following the King’s path, and seeking the King’s City. The brief introduction to John Bunyan at the beginning has also led to my daughter and I soon starting to read our first biography together over the Puritan.
As far as aesthetics go, the book is wonderful to hold. The clothbound cover with gold foil lettering and ribbon page marker affirm the care that went its printing and give the book a feel of significance.
The illustrations are wonderful. They are colorful and bright yet also fully capable of conveying the intensity of scenes like The Valley of the Shadow of Death and Doubting Castle.
The bundle also comes with a coloring book, stickers, and a map of the path to the Celestial City. As a lover of maps (both real and fantasy), this is easily my favorite addition, especially since it is printed on thick, textured paper.
But since the book is aimed at children, perhaps what my four-year-old daughter thinks of the book should be just as much weighed as my own thoughts.
Well, she loves it. It has easily become her favorite book of the past several weeks, and we have read it through several times (a couple of times in one sitting!). The allegories of Bunyan have rightly captured her imagination, and our walks in the park now often turn into a desperate sprint away from Giant Despair. Our conversations have also been rich about some of the more challenging moments, such as Faithful’s martyrdom.
This morning, however, I was greeted with my largest surprise yet. I was reading my old mass paperback original and unabridged copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress while I held my somewhat-dozing newborn. My four-year-old sat down next to me and asked for me to read aloud. She then proceeded to listen and engage with ten pages of the book’s thee’s, thou’s, and hath’s before a diaper change brought the reading session to an end. While Bunyan’s original writing is certainly beyond her present comprehension, she wasn’t entirely at a loss in spite of all the funny-sounding words. You see, Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey has already taught her the overall story, so she is already able to make some sense of the original.
Van Halteren has successfully introduced Bunyan’s classic to my household’s next generation, so to say that I recommend the book is an understatement.