Tag: helen l taylor (page 1 of 1)

4 Gorgeous Christian Allegories

When it comes to allegories, people have Opinions. Some readers find them unbearably cheesy, which is, I guess, understandable: few things grate on the nerves like a story that’s too handholdy—the kind that tells us what we’re supposed to think about every element of the story. And allegories can certainly come across as handholdy. There’s no dodging it: every allegory mentioned in this post features characters whose names explicitly tell you what they’re meant to represent within the story.

But you know what? I love allegories. I love the way they take an abstract truth and, by portraying it as a character, bring it to life. Allegories give those truths structure and presence—they give them a body. And I love what allegories do in our hearts as our family reads them: they give us illustrations we can return to when faced with a difficult moment. “Remember when Little Pilgrim strayed from the path?” we might say. “This situation is kind of like that because . . .”

When reading Little Pilgrim’s Progress we’re reminded that our life is not a linear line but a journey, filled with moments of peril and conviction as well as rest and peace. When reading Hinds’ Feet on High Places, we remember that our Shepherd is just a call away and that he’ll come bounding down the mountainside to our help when we call. Of course the best stories can also have this effect, allegorical or not, but allegories excel at it: they give us something concrete to picture in those moments when our vision is clouded by grief or discouragement or doubt.

4 Gorgeous Allegories | Little Book, Big Story

So, here are a few of our family’s favorites. There’s a little something on this list for all age levels, so I’ve organized it from the ones written for the littlest readers to the ones written for the biggest.


Little Pilgrim’s Progress, by Helen L. Taylor (& Joe Sutphin)

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen Taylor & Joe Sutphin | Little Book, Big Story

This adaptation takes the big truths of John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim’s Progress and translates them into characters and images that are accessible for young readers. Joe Sutphin’s illustrations in this edition open them up further. (Read the full review.)


Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains | Little Book, Big Story

Tales of the Kingdom was written in the eighties (you can see it in the artwork), which makes this one feel the most like modern life. These books are full of delightful stories and a prince we all long to know better. (Read the full review.)


Hinds’ Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard

Hind's Feet on High Places, by Hannah Hurnard | Little Book, Big Story

Hannah Hurnard’s tale of Much-Afraid and her journey to the High Places is one worth meditating upon and savoring. My older daughters love this one; I keep a copy by my bed so I can read a little each day. (Read the full review.)


The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan

The grand-daddy of allegories, Pilgrim’s Progress follows Christian as he journeys from the City of Destruction to the City of Light—and is waylaid, challenged, or fortified by those he meets along the way. This edition features updated language and some annotation that makes John Bunyan’s old-school language open up for modern readers. Another point in its favor? It’s so pretty!

(New!) Little Pilgrim’s Progress

I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced such a profound sense of holding a classic, hot-of-the-press, as I did when I first opened this edition of Little Pilgrim’s Progress. True, the text of this book is already a classic—based upon that granddaddy of classics, Pilgrim’s Progress—but this new edition illustrated by Joe Sutphin is one I can already imagine my grandchildren reading to their children. It is richly illustrated—delightfully so.

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen Taylor & Joe Sutphin | Little Book, Big Story

Where Helen Taylor adapted Bunyan’s work so that the main characters were all children, making their way to the King’s Celestial City through perils and danger, Joe Sutphin depicts the characters as woodland animals. This is a brilliant move, as it adds warmth to the story without being cute, and it makes the characters accessible. He adds, too, some wordless illustrations at the beginning, middle, and end of the book that round the story out and give it more weight. (The opening illustrations affected me the way that montage at the beginning of Up does—I’d be lying if I said I didn’t cry a little as we turned the pages.)

We are big fans of Sutphin’s art here at our house—from The Wingfeather Saga to Tumbleweed Thompson to A Year in the Big Old Garden, the books bearing his illustrations are a) some of our favorites, and b) richer because of his involvement. His characters are expressive, and his illustrations don’t do our imaginative work for us but they add to the text in ways that help us imagine the stories’ worlds better.

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen Taylor & Joe Sutphin | Little Book, Big Story

When many new adaptations of older works are often colored, to their detriment, by our modern sensibilities, this edition of Little Pilgrim’s Progress retains the spirit of Taylor’s original work (which in turn retains the spirit of Bunyan’s original work). Through Joe Sutphin’s illustrations it also invites readers—especially younger readers—into the story in a new way.


Little Pilgrim’s Progress
Helen L. Taylor; Joe Sutphin (2021)

5 Read-Alouds for Quarantine

We are weeks into a stay-at-home order here in Washington—I don’t even know how many weeks. Six? A lot. We are a lot of weeks in.

And while there are days when we feel desperate for the friends, family, and church community living outside our walls, and days when the news weighs so heavily on me that it’s almost physically painful, there are also ways in which we’ve settled into new routines. We have celebrated everything from Easter to May the Fourth (and four family birthdays) since the order took effect, and it hasn’t been horrible. Some of us have taken up crochet; some have formed an alliance with watercolor pencils. We have gardened a lot. And we finally—after months of squeezing it in around ballet lessons and youth group and home group and evenings out—finished Farmer Boy.

Reading aloud has become one of the sweet spots in our days again. We did not forsake it when the girls started school again—oh, no. But we did not have time to read as much as we had read before, and that was one of the things I missed most. These weeks of enclosure have been softened by lots of little excursions into stories and the discussions that have sprung from them.

5 Read-Alouds for Quarantine | Little Book, Big Story

I thought it would be fun, then, to compile a short list of great family read-alouds for this particular season—books that will appeal to a wide variety of ages, that you’ll want to sit down to night after night, that will make your world feel a little bigger and broader right now.


The Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy, by David & Karen Mains

Tales of the Kingdom, by David & Karen Mains | Little Book, Big Story

Because we live in a kingdom still under construction, but our king is here with us (if we know how to sight him). (Read the full review.)


The Little House Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Little House Books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder | Little Book, Big Story

Because those who came before us faced hardship and isolation, too, and still played the fiddle at the end of the day. (Read the full review.)


The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers

The Wilderking Trilogy, by Jonathan Rogers | Little Book, Big Story

Because sometimes you just need to laugh and be reminded to “Live the life that unfolds before you.” (Read the full review.)


Little Pilgrim’s Progress, by Helen L. Taylor

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen L. Taylor | Little Book, Big Story

Because we are in one valley of a much longer journey, and the Celestial City is still ahead. (Read the full review.)


The Wingfeather Saga, by Andrew Peterson

The Wingfeather Saga & Wingfeather Tales | Little Book, Big Story

Because I will take any opportunity to convince you to read this series. (Read the full review.)

Little Pilgrim’s Progress

The idea of abridging or adapting classics for young readers used to make me squeamish. But when I began collecting books for our school library, I started to see the sense in it: if done well, an adaptation can capture a story in language so simple that the characters and plot twists of classic literature become visible without the obscuring mist of political asides and ornate descriptions.

A good adaptation whets the reader’s appetite for the classics. It renders David Copperfield, Edmond Dantès, and Elizabeth Bennett old friends, ready to be rediscovered at a new depth when the time is right.

A bad adaptation, of course, is unpardonable.

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen L. Taylor | Little Book, Big Story

Little Pilgrim’s Progress is definitely a good adaptation. Since it was first published in 1982, it has become a sort of classic in its own right: in it, Helen L. Taylor retells John Bunyan’s allegory, Pilgrim’s Progress, in language clear enough for young readers. But she goes one step further and depicts the main characters as children, so that Christian and Christiana are not husband and wife but childhood friends. Had I known that she had taken that liberty, I might have overlooked the book entirely, thinking that Taylor had gone too far. But I didn’t know, and so I read the book without bias.

I am so glad I did.

Little Pilgrim's Progress, by Helen L. Taylor | Little Book, Big Story

Decreasing the stature of Christian and his acquaintances does more than make Pilgrim’s Progress feel accessible to children. By telling the story of characters who press on to meet their King face-to-face, no matter how young they are, Taylor makes the Christian faith itself feel more accessible to children. In her adaptation, Christian accepts help when offered and cries out for help from the King when he needs it, but he fights his own battles and answers for his own missteps. He doesn’t reach the Celestial City on the shoulders of an adult but on his own two feet.

Mitch has been reading this book to our older three daughters (with a sippy cup of milk and her stuffed lamb, Sir Lamb-a-Lot, even the two-year-old is willing to sit still long enough to listen), and I have loved eavesdropping on the story while I put the baby to bed. Without an adaptation, it would have been years before they were ready to read John Bunyan’s original work. And while I do still look forward to reading Pilgrim’s Progress to them when they’re older, I am thankful for a good adaption that opens the doors to the story for our daughters and makes Christian and Christiana already feel like old friends.


Little Pilgrim’s Progress
Helen L. Taylor, John Bunyan (1982)