Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress: A Retelling

Rating: ★★★★★

Gary Schmidt brings us an accessible modern paraphrase of John Bunyan’s classic in Pilgrim’s Progress: A Retelling.  This version includes more plot and character detail than Dangerous Journey, and the modern text is good in its own right, especially if you plan to move on later to the original novel.  (Bunyan’s original language is rather difficult to read, and knowing the plot ahead of time can defuse the intimidation of unfamiliar words.)

Schmidt’s storytelling is augmented by Moser’s vibrant paintings, which are often reminiscent of Norman Rockwell‘s style.  He uses subjects from across several centuries and walks of life, and this gives a stimulating breadth to the story.  Christian, an Everyman in a baseball cap and blue jeans, greets the distinguished African-American Evangelist with the same equanimity as the Medieval gatekeeper Goodwill.  (It is all a dream, after all, so why shouldn’t the characters appear in unpredictable ways?).  The monsters and perils Christian meets along the way are grimly terrible, quite in line with Bunyan’s classic, but sensitive children may be troubled by images of the creeping company of demons, the brooding Pagan, and especially the dragon Apollyon, who is rendered so vividly that he seems to belong in a graphic horror novel rather than in a Christian children’s book.  Just as in all the good stories, however, evil is soundly defeated, and Death itself is shown to have lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:53-55).

This book may be best suited to an elementary audience for read-aloud, and upper-elementary and middle school for reading alone.  It fills in some plot gaps that Dangerous Journey leaves out, and bridges a language gap for those who may have trouble with Hunkin’s version.  If I had to choose between the two it would be a difficult choice, but I would recommend that Dangerous Journey be introduced first, since it’s a bit closer to the mood of the original author.  Also, Schmidt leaves out Part Two, Christiana’s Journey, which is included in Dangerous Journey, so let your read-aloud audience know they shouldn’t expect it.

The good folks at are doing a series on Pilgrim’s Progress and Dangerous Journey, including interpretation/application exercises for children that could be used for most retellings.

You may also be interested in Pilgrim, a musical production by the high school youth at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD.  This high quality musical that has been reviewed by bloggers Joshua Harris, Justin Taylor, Tony Reinke, and Carolyn McCulley.

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Publication Information: Schmidt, Gary D.. Pilgrim's Progress: A Retelling. Bunyan, John (Original Author). Moser, Barry (Illustrator). William B. Eerdmans. 1994. ISBN: 0802850804.
Categories: 5 Stars, Age 04-08
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Posted on October 17, 2011

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