After that comes an allegorical story written in 1678 from the dank cell of a jail in Bedfordshire, England. The Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into more than 200 languages and selling more than 100,000 copies in the first 15 years. It has currently sold more copies than any book other than the Bible.
In 1684, John Bunyan wrote part two to his allegory, telling the story of the main character–Christian’s–wife and children.
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Pilgrim’s Progress is a biblical allegory which tells the story of a man named Christian as he journeys from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. His journey to salvation and then through progressive sanctification over the course of his life is both inspiring and a warning. The story clearly draws on Scripture, and encourages readers to consider their own life in light of God’s Word.
The man encounters many challenges, as well as many interesting characters. The characters are named in a way that makes the allegory easy to follow, with monikers like: Christian, Evangelist, Obstinate, Faithful, Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Goodwill, Prudence, and Charity.
Christian travels through places like the Slough of Despond, the village of Morality, Hill Difficulty, Palace Beautiful, the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Vanity Fair, and Doubting Castle. The plot is easy to follow, and bears a strong resemblance to our journey through life and faith as Christians.
Writers following Bunyan were heavily influenced by his story, and pastors and theologians have long been devoted to the story. Charles Spurgeon read the book at least 100 times while J.I. Packer read it yearly for over 50 years.
John Bunyan’s Story
For your 7-12 year olds, Brian H. Cosby has written a wonderful biography of John Bunyan’s life. I am partial to the volume. One of my kids–after we read aloud the story of the rebellious Bunyan who was saved to become faithful to Christ to the point of spending twelve years in prison for preaching the gospel–was so convicted, he gave his life to Jesus. Now, the Lord called him to salvation, but I will forever be grateful for the life of John Bunyan and the work of Brian Cosby!
The Pilgrim’s Progress for Children
Every family will want to read The Pilgrim’s Progress together. There are a number of wonderful versions available for you to choose from. Your children will benefit from growing up with this impactful story and the spiritual lessons it illustrates straight from Scripture.
I’ve included a short synopsis of each book, a passage from the scene at the cross (or a part of the passage), and some quick information on the author. I plan to keep all of these in our family library, and to give several volumes as gifts–with the gift book depending on the age of children in the family.
These beautiful volumes tell an impactful story you’ll want to save to read to your grandchildren.
Pilgrim’s Progress for Kids
The Pilgrim’s Progress: A Poetic Journey by Paul and Stephanie Cox
H & E Kids Publishing, 2019 | 43 pages | 5-7 Years Old
This short and sweet picture book covers the plot highlights for your youngest readers. I love Paul Cox’s bright and simple illustrations, which tell much o f the story. The rhyming text has one or two couplets on each page. This joyful rendition of The Pilgrim’s Progress is the perfect way to introduce your family to this classic story of faith.
On the path to the cross,
Christian’s burden broke free.
His sins now forgiven,
“I was blind, now I see!”
Paul and Stephanie Cox homeschool their kids, raise chickens, and keep bees. Paul Cox’s RefToons celebrate theologians of the past.
Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Parts I and II by Tyler Van Halteren
Lithos Kids, 2020, 2021 | 224, 232 pages | 2-10 Years Old
This two volume set tells the story of a young boy, Christian (Book I), and his siblings (Book II). In the original, Christian is a married man and part two tells the story of his wife and four boys. These two volumes are delightful, with engaging full-color illustrations by Beatriz Mello on every page. The text is clear and the story is perfect for little readers. Each book has ten chapters with a one-page summary that sums up the chapter and explains the biblical allegory.
He ran until he reached a hill, where he saw a large wooden cross.
His book told him that the King’s Son had died on this cross
so that little pilgrims could be freed from their burdens.
Christian’s eyes filled with tears. He thought how much
it must have hurt the King to send his only Son to die,
and how much the Son must have endured while dying.
Christian stood in wonder. “I lived my whole life
in the City of Destruction. I continually disobeyed the King.
I never once thanked him or showed him any love.
I’m a poor little pilgrim in filthy clothes.
Why would he doe this for me?”
As he drew nearer to the cross, the straps on his shoulders snapped,
and the huge load fell off his back. It rolled down the hill,
picking up greater speed until it fell into a large pit–
never to be seen again. (Pp. 69-70)
Tyler Van Halteren has an M.Div from the Master’s Seminary and a passion to point kids to Christ and God’s Word.
Amazon: Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Part I | Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Part I Coloring Book |Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Part II
ChristianBook: Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Part I | Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Part I Coloring Book |Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Part II | Little Pilgrim’s Big Journey, Part II Coloring Book
The Pilgrim’s Progress: A Poetic Retelling of John Bunyan’s Classic Tale by Rousseaux Brasseur
Harvest Kids, 2020 | 208 pages | 8-12 Years Old
This great volume has 30 chapters with 5-7 pages (including two full-page illustrations) per chapter. There is a relevant Bible verse at the beginning of each chapter, with the story written in poetic verse. While 8-12 year olds will enjoy reading this story on their own, the chapter divisions make it perfect for a month of bedtime readings.
“Cast your burdens on Me, for I care for you deeply;
Then your soul will find rest, and I will bless thee and keep thee.”
Christian’s heart was set free and sin’s burden came unbound;
As he fell to his knees, his burden fell to the ground!
It rolled down the hill into a bottomless grave,
And Christian wept tears of joy then began a song of praise:
By faith I see the King who died–
Love lifted high and crucified!
The Father’s love now fills my heart;
I feel death’s power and dread depart.
I’m free from all my guilt and fears;
My eyes now flow with joyful tears!
Must here this burden fall from my back?
Must here the chains that bound it to me crack?
Oh blessed hill! Oh blessed cross! Oh blessed rather be
The Man who died here in my place that I might be set free!
In the shadow of the cross, Christian’s faith and love grew strong,
So he stayed till the sun fell and the shadows grew long. (Pp. 54)
Rousseaux Brasseur has been a children’s pastor and director, and now he writes books, plays, and films for kids.
Little Pilgrim’s Progress: A Poetic Journey by Helen L. Taylor
Moody Publishers, 2021 | 240 pages | 6-12 Years Old
By far, this volume has the most text and has been added to the most. Helen L. Taylor’s 93 chapter storybook was written in 1947. Having sold 600,000 copies, it is now available as a storybook illustrated by Joe Sutphin. Taylor transformed the characters into animals. Christian, who is a young rabbit, has a mother who has gone to Celestial City before him. The rewrite makes this a wonderful storybook for three months of bedtimes.
Christian had almost forgotten his burden while he was with the Interpreter, but as he walked along and the day began to grow hot, he felt its weight again and wished that he could get rid of it.
Goodwill said I should lose it at the Cross, he thought. I wonder if that is very far away.
Presently he came to a place where there was a little hill by the side of the road, and upon the hill he saw the very thing for which he was longing. There stood the Cross, and the moment little Christian began to climb the path that led to it, he felt that the bands that fastened his burden were breaking. Then it fell from his shoulders and rolled to the bottom of the hill, and when he turned to see what had become of it, he found that it was quite gone.
At first he was so surprised that he could scarcely believe that he had really lost the burden that had been such a trouble to him.
I must be dreaming, he thought. But although he stood still for a few minutes, and rubbed his eyes, the burden did not come back. The birds went on singing… (Bottom two-thirds of pp. 55)
Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress by Oliver Hunkin
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1985 | 126 pages | 5-10 Years Old
This beautiful edition has wonderful illustrations by Alan Parry. Sticking closely to the original plot line, Oliver Hunkin abridged Bunyan’s text, adding some to it to clarify it for children. This edition is a fabulous read aloud for families, and worthy of every family library.
How his burden had got on his back in the first place, and why nobody else had burdens–as happens in dreams–we are not told. But never had he been so eager as he was now to be rid of it. And that–did he but know it–was half the battle.
Now I saw in my dream that the road, from then on, was fenced on either side with a wall. The wall was named Salvation. Along this road did burdened Christian run. Or should we say, he did his best to run, so far as he could, with that load upon his back.
At the foot of a hill, he passed an open tomb. Then up again, upon a little knoll, he found himself beneath a wayside cross. And as its shadow fell across him, so suddenly the burden, slipping from his shoulders, fell from off his back. It tumbled down the hill. It tumbled into the mouth of the tomb. It was never seen again.
Christian kept feeling behind his back. He couldn’t believe it. For it was very surprising to him that the simple act of gazing at the cross had set him free, and his burden of guilt was gone. (Top half of pp. 40)
Oliver Hunkin (1916-2011) was the head of religious programs for the BBC from 1960-1977. He continued to make Christian programs for children.
The Pilgrim’s Progress: An Illustrated Christian Classic by John Bunyan
Thomas Nelson, 2019 | 240 pages | Middle & High School
This illustrated classic contains John Bunyan’s unabridged text interspersed with annotations by Carrie Marr. The annotations are set clearly as sidebars. Some help explain the scriptural allegories, while others give insight into the life of John Bunyan–explaining how his life experiences affected the storyline. Each chapter has one full-page illustration, with smaller illustrations on some of the pages. This edition is perfect for your middle and high school students!
Now I saw in my dream, that the highway up which Christian was to go, was fenced on either side with a wall, and that wall was called Salvation. (Isaiah 26:1) Up this way, therefore, did burdened Christian run, but not without great difficulty, because of the load on his back.
He ran thus till he came at a place somewhat ascending, and upon that place stood a cross, and a little below, in the bottom, a sepulchre. So I saw in my dream, that just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from off his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till it came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart, “He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.” Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden. He looked therefore, and looked again, even till the springs that were in his head send the waters down his cheeks. (Zechariah 12:10) (Pp. 61)
The Pilgrim’s Progress is a wonderful story–one that every Christian benefits from reading. Introduce your family early and often with these wonderful volumes!
Bible Resources for Your Kids
Christian Biographies for Kids | Christian History for Kids | Theology for Kids
Christian History Matters for Our Kids.
History matters. Now, more than ever, we see how important it is for our children to know and understand history and the Bible.
- God is the sovereign ruler of all things. It’s important for our kids to see his hand in the history of nations and in the lives of both peasants and kings.
- Christian history is the story of our family history. Our kids get to see how people who love Jesus follow him.
- Understanding history can help our kids learn historic and biblical theology. They learn what the Bible says and what that means for us. They also see when the study of Scripture has taken important turns that have changed the Church.
- Reading Christian biographies and history can be a wonderful way for kids to think outside their own time and culture. God’s Church spans centuries and includes people from every nation.
- Christian biographies help kids consider their own faith, walk with Jesus, and the impact their witness may one day have on others–and on history.
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