My family loves John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678). Charles Spurgeon read this classic over one hundred times. It’s a pity that many Christians today have not read it even once. Here are some versions we enjoy:
1. Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress, illustrated by Joanne Brubaker (Chicago: Moody, 1960).
- It’s excellent for young children because there is a picture on every page, and the text is simple and straightforward.
- The Kindle version includes all the illustrations.
- The book is especially meaningful to me for reasons that are evident in the below correspondence I had with my former pastor, Mike Bullmore:
[email from me to Mike Bullmore on 6/7/2010]
I’m in the process of cataloging my print and electronic library, and I just entered this book in my database:
Bunyan, John. Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress. Chicago: Moody, 1960.
I opened it up and reread what I wrote on the inside cover:
I read this very book to Michael after he relapsed. He loved to look at the pictures as I read and explained Bunyan’s outstanding allegory. Now Michael is at the glorious end of his difficult journey, and I look forward to seeing him again in the celestial city!
A little background:
I’m the second of seven children . . . . In December 1998 (during my freshman year of college), my family was shocked to learn that my youngest brother Michael, who was three years old at the time, had cancer—Stage IV Neuroblastoma. The doctors warned us that Michael had only a ten percent chance to live. Over the next three-and-a-half years, Michael endured chemotherapy, radiation, a bone marrow transplant, two major surgeries, monoclonal antibody treatments, and countless tests. From June 2000 to October 2001, Michael’s cancer was in remission, and for much of the time he felt great. But he started having pain, and we soon learned that his cancer had returned. Hearing this news was as difficult as hearing the initial diagnosis. The doctors told us that there was nothing more they could do to cure him. After a tenacious final battle with cancer, Michael went home to be with the Lord on March 30, 2002.
So then I turned the page and saw who drew the pictures that Michael loved to look at: Joanne Brubaker!
Joanne Brubaker is Mike Bullmore’s mother-in-law.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the day I sent that email was the one-year anniversary of her home-going.
Here’s part of Mike’s reply a few days later:
I can’t tell you how meaningful this is. I have my own story about that little book.
I loved it as a kid and would regularly sneak into my sister’s room, steal it off her shelf, and pore over those pictures and wonder if I could someday be like Christian. Many years later I saw that book on a bureau in my new sweetheart’s home. I exclaimed, “Oh I loved that book as a boy! I remember all those pictures.”
She looked at me with a funny look on her face and then realized I wasn’t being ingratiating. She said, “You don’t know, do you?”
I said, “Know what?”
She said, “That my mother drew those pictures.”
How kind of God that my future mother-in-law would have a shaping influence on me as a child. It is something I treasure deeply. . . .
2. Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress , ed. Oliver Hunkin, illustrated by Alan Parry (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1985).
- Here’s what my wife and I wrote about it when we reviewed it in 2008: “This is an abridged account of John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, a Christian classic that deserves to be part of every child’s theological upbringing. This abridgment vividly captures how Christians persevere in their joyful and dangerous lives, and it richly repays repeated readings. (Charles Haddon Spurgeon read The Pilgrim’s Progress over one hundred times.) The illustrations seem unrefined and sometimes frightening, but no one will confuse who the bad guys are! The language is not always as archaic as the original The Pilgrim’s Progress (which is similar to the KJV), but it is still noticeably older (e.g., its sentence structure, word order, word choice). Our pastor, Dr. Mike Bullmore, enthusiastically recommends Dangerous Journey and adds that all three of his children look back to it as their favorite children’s book.”
- You can watch it as well (1 hour, 53 minutes):
3. The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come , ed. C. J. Lovik, illustrated by Mike Wimmer (Wheaton: Crossway, 2009).
- I briefly reviewed it in 2009.
- It includes Bunyan’s unabridged text, which is too much for young children. But it has thirty full-color, original paintings that children would enjoy.
(Here are some sample pictures from the first three books.)
* * * * * * *
4. Pilgrim’s Progress, ed. Gary Schmidt, illustrated by Barry Moser (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).
Young children would appreciate it if the picture-to-text ratio were better, but the text is beautifully written.
5. The Pilgrim’s Progress, ed. Lee Tung and Johnny Wong, illustrated by Creator Art Studio, 2 vols. (Leesburg, FL: Kingstone Comics, 2011).
- volume 1 | volume 2
- The story changes several characters from boys to girls (e.g., Help is a leggy fairy, and Hopeful is a petite young lady!), but it hits the highlights and follows Bunyan’s basic storyline. Some of the illustrations of women seem to cross the line by being too revealing, especially for a children’s book.
6. Pilgrim, a musical performed by the youth from Covenant Life Church in 2009.
- a creative modern adaptation
- moving and edifying
7. Pilgrim’s Progress: John Bunyan’s Classic Story Adapted for Children, ed. Anna Trimiew, illustrated by Drew Rose (Suwanee, GA: Great Commission, 2013).
- Theological editor = John L. Mussleman
- The book has its own website, where you can download a free chapter of the book.
8. The New Pilgrim’s Progress, ed. Judith M. Markham and Warren W. Wiersbe (Grand Rapids: Discovery, 1989).
- Markham updated the text, and Wiersbe contributed notes.
- The text reads more like the NIV than the KJV.
9. Desiring God’s edition, 2014
- Free PDF
- Foreword by Leland Ryken
- Life of Bunyan by John Piper
- Preface by John Newton
Bonus: Two Resources on The Pilgrim’s Progress
- Spurgeon, C. H. Pictures from Pilgrim’s Progress: A Commentary on Portions of John Bunyan’s Immortal Allegory. Edited by Thomas Spurgeon. Chicago: Revell, 1903.
- Ryken, Leland. Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014.