Too many potholes for a steady Progress.



A verse rendition of the 342-year-old quest fantasy’s first part.

Brasseur keeps the plot intact along with the Calvinist insistence on redemption through grace alone, not works, and cameos from pilgrim-eating giants Pagan and Pope. Except for New Testament quotations at each chapter’s head, however, he loses the original’s teeming, pace-killing Biblical references. Some of his other changes will strike readers as arbitrary: Erstwhile neighbors Obstinate and Pliable are “Sir Stubborn” and “Mr. Fickle,” and the Slough of Despond is, disappointingly, just a generic “marshland.” Still, he does somewhat modernize the original’s now-crabbed idiom: “Dad is being ridiculous; there’s nothing we should fear,” Christian’s children say. He sets most of Christian’s journey through the “narrow wicket-picket gate” in anapests, which creates a suitable sense of trotting along, but both meter and rhyme are inconsistent. In any case, this retelling doesn’t measure up in quality or feeling to Gary D. Schmidt’s magisterial John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress (1994), illustrated by Barry Moser. Longhi’s frequent full-page paintings likewise suffer in comparison, as her stiff, blocky figures never show other than theatrical emotions. Still, if Christian and most of the rest of the cast are White, Jesus sports an olive complexion, and Christian travels with brown-skinned companions Faithful (whose auto-da-fé is described but not depicted) and Hopeful.

Too many potholes for a steady Progress. (Verse fiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7369-7948-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Harvest House

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Tender and thought-provoking but wobbling on a shaky moral compass


A shy, injured Jewish teen travels from Berkeley’s 1964 student protests to 11th-century Paris, where only she can save a newborn.

Hope, the granddaughter of Blue Thread’s (2012) suffragist heroine, is a lovely singer but has trouble speaking out. She’s shy, for one thing, and ashamed of her stutter. She’s overwhelmed by her pushy older siblings. And finally, she has facial scarring—and occasional acid flashbacks—from injuries sustained when she accidentally downed LSD disguised as candy. At first, she takes it for a flashback when she’s visited by Serakh, a time traveler from biblical times, but Serakh is very real and needs her help. In the year 1099, young Dolcette has just given birth, and her husband, Avram, is convinced a vision has ordered him to kill the child; Serakh is certain Hope will be the child’s salvation. Hope wonders if his visions might come from a similar source as her own flashbacks. Meanwhile, in the modern world, Hope’s self-absorbed and strong-willed siblings threaten to drag her into more trouble than she can handle. As Hope pops between Hanukkahs nearly 900 years apart, she needs to solve her own family crises while navigating modern radical politics and saving a child’s life. A character in the 20th century is rightly condemned (by Hope and the novel) for thinking one can solve other people’s problems by slipping them hallucinogens; unfortunately Hope’s solution to Avram’s problem rests on that very act.

Tender and thought-provoking but wobbling on a shaky moral compass . (Historical fantasy. 11-13)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-932010-65-7

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Ooligan Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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The revelation that every time a new Martin is born into his family another one kicks the bucket stuns, bums and ultimately lights a rocket under 13-year-old Martin Boyle. Friesen presents his earnest narrator as a lad so under the influence of his fanatically safety-conscious mother that he flies into a panic at any encounter with nature (“They’re only trees. They’re only ugly trees. They’re only ugly, boy-hating trees. They’re only ugly, boy-hating, hungry—”) and wears a portable air bag on the school bus. The discovery of matching birth and death dates for all the Martins in the Boyle family cemetery sends Martin into a tailspin, but with help from a sturdy supporting cast he pulls out and firmly resolves to grab life with both hands while finding a way to break the “curse,” if he can, in the few months remaining to him until his Aunt Jenny’s due date. These helpers notably include Poole, a young vagrant with a relentlessly sunny outlook, and classmate Julia, to whom Martin fears to speak until she takes his developing story about the adventures of a White Knight and his Lady Love and creates gorgeous illustrations. Spiced with plenty of slapstick, the yarn speeds its protagonist through a succession of highs, lows and improbable triumphs on the way to a hilariously melodramatic finish. (Adventure. 11-13)

Pub Date: April 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-310-72080-5

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Zondervan

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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