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The Pilgrim's Progress


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JOHN BUNYAN (1628-88) was born in Elstow, a village near Bedford. He went to school in the village and became a travelling brazier or tinker, like his father. In 1644 he joined the Parliamentary army, and served in the garrison of Newport Pagnell, a Bedfordshire town, until 1646. He married in 1649 and had four children, though the name of his first wife is unknown. As part of her dowry she brought two popular books of devotion; and these, along with a series of experiences, triggered a complex conversion experience, not fully resolved until 1653, when Bunyan joined a separatist congregation in Bedford. Soon Bunyan began preaching and engagin in controversy with other reiligous groups. He wrote his first book, Some Gospel Truths Opened in 1656. Soon after the Restoration he was arrested for unlicensed preaching in the village of Lower Samsell and, because he refused to stop peraching, remain in prison in Bedford for twelve years. His account of his trial was published posthumously in 1765. He was imprisoned again for about six months in 1676. He continued to write, and to preach in Bedfordshire and London. In 1678 he published the first part of The Pilgrim's Progress. It became am immediate bestseller, running through twelve ditions and being translated into Dutch, French and Welsh during Bunyan's lifetime; since then it has been traslated into more than two hundred languages. Its counterpart, The Life and Death of Mr Badman (1682) is epic in cope. The second part of The Pilgrim's Progress came out in 1684, partly in response to a number of imitations and spurious sequels. A Book for Boys and Girls, one of the earliest examples of literature for children, was published in 1686. Bunyan died in 1688 for a fever contracted while riding from Reading to London to try to effect a reconciliation between a father and son. He left a number of works in manuscript, many of them published by Chalres Doe in his folio of 1692, which also contained the first (brief) biography of Bunyan. ROGER POOLEY teaches at Keele University. His Cambridge Ph.D. thesis on Bunyan was partly supervised by the late Roger Sharrock, the editor of the previous Penguin Classics Pilgrim's Progress. He is the author of English Prose of the Seventeenth Century (1993) and a number of shorter pieces on Bunyan and other seventeenth-century figures. He has co-edited The Lord of the Journey; A Reader in Christina Spirituality and The Discerning Reader: Literature and Theory in Christian Perspecitve. He is an active member of the International John Bunyan Society.


Gr 5 Up-McCaughrean is known for her ability to make classic literature accessible and appealing to young readers. Here, her attempt to bring this religious allegory to contemporary readers is only partially successful, due in large part to the symbolic nature of the work. As in her earlier books, she retains the story's narrative framework and drama with a careful choice of events and use of rich, powerful language. She has eliminated much of the detail and lengthy philosophizing found in the original, presenting the story as a grand adventure. She has also toned down some of the most violent episodes such as Faithful's death. Unfortunately, Christian's dangerous journey may not be enough to attract and hold children's interest. Pilgrim's Progress is essentially a complex allegory. Understanding the symbolism is key to appreciating the drama. Most children will not have the biblical knowledge or the maturity to understand and interpret the allegorical levels. Without that foundation, Christian's episodic adventures may seem too disconnected for them-despite McCaughrean's lively retelling. Cockcroft's illustrations, softly rendered drawings interspersed with dramatic double-page paintings, emphasize Christian's struggles. This is a limited purchase for libraries in need of a children's edition of this classic. John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progess (Eerdmans, 1994), retold by Gary Schmidt and illustrated by Barry Moser, is a slightly more modernized version and features a multiethnic cast of characters.-Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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