The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

by Barbara Robinson

Paperback, 2005



Call number




HarperCollins (2005), Edition: Reprint, 128 pages


The six mean Herdman kids lie, steal, smoke cigars (even the girls) and then become involved in the community Christmas pageant.

User reviews

LibraryThing member elainevbernal
The Herdman children were notorious for being the terror of their town - all the children were known to beat up on other children, set fires, and cause ruckus among their neighborhood. The children smoked cigars and stole from others. Even their mother constantly works overtime just so she could
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avoid them. As a twist, it was to everyone's surprise that the Herdman children decide to participate in the annual church's Christmas Pageant. It turned out that one of the children, Leroy, learns that the church offers free food and refreshments at their services, and when all the Herdman children come to church and learn about the Nativity story - they were completely amazed, wanted to learn more, and be in the Christmas Pageant. The narrator's mother, who was in charge of the pageant for the first time was motivated to run the pageant and was willing and patient enough to work with the Herdman children, as many had doubted her and how the Herdmans would turn out.

To some, the pageant turned out less than ideal, with the oldest, Imogene, wearing big golden hoop earrings, looking haggard, and carrying baby Jesus over her shoulder; her little sister Gladys yelling, "Hey! Onto you Christ is born;" and one of the Herdman boys, Ralph, playing one of the three wise men and bringing a gift of ham instead of myrrh. However, to the narrator, a young girl in Imogene's class, the pageant is more real than ever, as the Herdman children, "had improved the pageant a lot, just by doing what came naturally--like burping the baby...or thinking a ham would make a better present than a lot of perfumed oil."

The book, although humorous for the most part, sends a clear message about the sad reality of neglected children - how people can be judgmental and dismissive of the children's needs, and that most of the time, what children in neglected environments require is for people to be emphatic, understanding, and patient with them, as the narrator and her family were to the Herdmans.

This book is a great read for children ages 9-12 and teaches an effective lesson about the experiences of children in challenging family situations. Great read for the holidays as well, as it begs the question about the "true" meaning of Christmas.
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LibraryThing member innermurk
This is one of those stories that sticks with you long after the pages are closed. It allows a widened perspective on a holiday that may have been taken for granted for a long time. The most enjoyable part of the story is discovering for yourself, along with the Herdmans just what Christmas is all
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about. Filled with humor, and never preachy, the story revolves around a bunch of troublemaking kids that terrorize the town, told from the perspective of one child of a differing family that just tries to be good and fit in.
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LibraryThing member kmari03
This book is a modern-day classic. It's the story of what happens when the Herdmans, the worst family in the neighborhood, take over the Christmas Pageant by less-than-scrupulous means. The book is comical and a fun, easy read. The insightful, relatable and empathatic teen narrator follows their
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adventures as the would-be disaster turns into something like the best Christmas Pageant ever.

This is a great book for kids who need a reminder around Christmas time about what is important in a non-preachy way. At a time when the emphasis is (no matter how hard you try) on what people are getting, this book chronicles kids who are aquiring something that cannot be bought--acceptance from their peers and community.

Check the papers around the holidays--chances are you can read the book and then go see the stage version. It's a community theatre favorite persented in two short acts, probably good for kids 7+.
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LibraryThing member tututhefirst
A hilarious uproarious story set in the Carolinas, time indeterminate. When the town bullies, who've never been to Church, or Sunday School, and who know nothing about the Christmas Story, decide to take over the annual Sunday school church pageant, the story of Jesus is presented in quite a
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different format. A quick read, but one that is quite profound in its message.
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LibraryThing member Daceymay
I like it and you will like it too.
LibraryThing member LudieGrace
I love this book. I was introduced to it when Mrs. Stewart read it to my second grade class, and I've adored it ever since, though only recently, during an episode of insomnia, did I fully rediscover its goodness. I love how it brings out the earthiness, messiness, mystery, and beauty of the
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Incarnation in a totally non-preachy way. Theological without trying too hard to be; funny and touching.
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LibraryThing member booksandwine
Read this in fifth grade, what a silly wonderful fantastic holiday read.
LibraryThing member library_girl27
Everything during the Christmas Pageant goes wrong, yet that just makes it right. I loved this book. I adored it! Robinson crafts a story that really brings the spirit of Christmas.
LibraryThing member msbunk
The Herdmans were the kids that everyone feared and did not like in the neighborhood. They lie, cheat, steal, smoke, and hurt other kids on a daily basis. Their own mother works so many hours just so she doesn't have to deal with the kids. There were six kids in all, Leroy, Claude, Gladys, Imogene,
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Ralph, and Ollie. When they heard about the Christmas pageant, they all wanted to be a part of it, even though they had no idea what Christmas was all about. They threatened the other children, so no one would volunteer for the main parts except for the Herdmans. When they took over the entire pageant, everyone knew it would be a disaster. By the time the pageant was over, everyone said there was something different about the pageant, but they couldn't figure out what it was. The truth was, the Herdmans put their own little touches in the pageant and made it a success.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was very comical and easy to read. I think a lot of my students would benefit from reading this book because it deals with bullying.
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LibraryThing member ababe92
This a book that is good to read to a classroom to teacher them that if they are nice to other children that might seem mean then they might be surprised if the children are actually good. I recommend this book to every teacher to read to there students in the month of December.
LibraryThing member prkcs
Called one of America's favorite Christmas stories, and now a classic television movie, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been a favorite of young readers the world over since 1972. Funny, memorable, and outrageous, it is the story of a family of incorrigible children who discover the Christmas
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story for the first time and help everyone else rediscover its true meaning.
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LibraryThing member rfewell
I'll be reading this with the kids -- so funny! They loved it :-) It might have to be a tradition...
LibraryThing member readinggeek451
This is a must-read-at-Christmas book for me. Plus in between when I feel like laughing hysterically. It's really short and loads of fun; if you've never read it, GO READ IT!
LibraryThing member brekimlov
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson is a great read for any child and adult in search of a funny book! This book centers around the infamous Herdman children. The Narration in this book will have you believing that this crazy herd of children really does exist!

I first read the 1972
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version of this book in the 5th grade. I picked it up by accident and have never regreted doing so. Though a chapter book my mother and I read it together and laughed about the book the whole time.

I would recommend reading this book for a little clean comic relief. This is the kind of book that can be read to a class at the end of the day as sort of a winding down tool. This is also a great way to get kids interested in reading.
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LibraryThing member nittnut
A heart-warming story about a bunch of wild kids who come to church and get involved with the Christmas pageant. It changes their lives and it changes their community.
LibraryThing member SirRoger
Classic children's book. Gread for reading aloud. Brings tears, laughter, and reflection, like any good kids book should.
LibraryThing member mrsarey
This is the classic story of the Herdmans and how they stirred up the local nativity pageant. This is a must read!
LibraryThing member Katya0133
A very funny classic.
LibraryThing member BryanThomasS
A true classic -- funny, great characters, great message and heartwarming. One to read again and again every year. Read it to your kids and enjoy it yourself. Highly recommended.
LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
One problem with getting old is that you get jaded. You start taking things for granted and lose that sense of wonder that seems to come with childhood. Take the Bible, for example. "The Greatest Story Ever Told", right? Well, after years of reading it, the temptation is to blip over all those
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stories you've heard so many times. So how does one combat such creeping boredom? Well, one way is to share the story, event or what have you with someone who is experiencing it for the first time. That's what Ms. Robinson does in this book. It's November and the annual Christmas pageant is coming up. Folks start getting ready to dive into the Christmas routine when the Herdman kids show up. The Herdmans are a pack of hellions--the six wildest, meanest, most exasperating set of young'uns ever to plague an elementary school. Someone told them about the free snacks they get in Sunday School and they show up, just in time to hear about the Christmas Pageant. Well, everyone wants to be a star and the Herdmans are no exception. They cause all sorts of mischief with their uncouth and uncharitable ways, but they also put a new light on the Christmas story for the church members and the reader. Or should I say they put on an old light that I had forgotten about? Check it out.
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LibraryThing member Stsmurphy
It is a funny, playful story about a Christmas Pageant that happens in a community every year. This year the pageant was a little different after being taken over by the 6 wild hellions in the Herdman family. It is a reminder about the wonderment of the Christmas miracle that some of us may take
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for granted. I enjoyed this quick read and will look forward to reading it with my kids next year.
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LibraryThing member auntieknickers
Although this book(and the play based on it) may have become almost as much a Christmas cliche as Dickens' A Christmas Carol or It's A Wonderful Life, it's still worth having and re-reading or seeing on stage at least every few years. Anyone who spends much time in church will recognize the
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character traits of the "church ladies," and probably also will have heard sermon illustrations of children who, in their childish innocence, see the real meaning of Christmas. The Herdmans are hardly childish innocents, but in them and their story, Barbara Robinson has taken a sermon illustration and turned it into a good story with a moral from which we can all profit.
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LibraryThing member SJKessel
Robinson, B. (1972). The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. New York: HarperTrophy.

80 pages.

Appetizer: The Herdmans are the worst kids in town. They smoke cigars, cause trouble in their classes, lie steal and they burned down Mr. Shoemaker's toolhouse (which really worked for them, since they got to
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steal the police's doughnuts).

It's all Charlie's fault that they wound up involved in the Christmas Pageant though. The six Herdman children attend church, for the first time ever, looking for extra snacks because of what Charlie said and they wound up auditioning for the pageant because they love movies. The Herdmans intemidate (or take unwanted roles) and end up with all of the leads in the play.

The pageant may never be the same.

Yet another classic book I never managed to pick up when I was a kid. (I also don't think I ever watched the made for TV movie. Is that something I should try to hunt down on Netflix, FBDR?) I actually don't think I'd ever heard of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. But one of my students reviewed it last quarter and it seemed fun enough that I wanted to pick it up for myself. Little do my students know, I steal book ideas from them aaaaaall the time. (Except I tell them that. I'm horrible at keeping secrets.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is very fun. It made me laugh several times and put me in the holiday spirit (which is what I was going for. YAY!). It's a fast read and would probably make a good pre-Christmas read aloud, for both kids who haven't heard the nativity story before and for those who are so familiar with it they have it memorized, zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I did have trouble turning off my teacher eyes as I was reading though. The Herdmans' father abandoned them. Their mother works two jobs (but turned down some welfare money because she'd rather work than spend time with her children). The kids only pass their classes because the teachers don't want to deal with them for a second year (in which case, they'd also have a younger Herdman brother or sister to also deal with). Reading all of that made me want to be the siblings' teacher (but possibly not all at once) and, I don't know, intimidate the shiz out of them or something. No, probably a teacher would have to go a more mothering route...and be super vigilant so he or she wouldn't end up with a surprise clump of worms in his/her pockets or hair. I'd try a number of different tactics....

You see what I mean! I couldn't turn off the teacher perspective and just enjoy the book. But it all ended up being okay, because those kids were super-curious about the story of Jesus, and helped their classmates and town to see the story in a new light.

As I was reading, there was some dated language and some dated gender roles, but I was very interested in the narrator. Robinson uses an unnamed narrator to tell the story. It reminded me of The Great Gatsby, in that both have a secondary character sharing the story.

Also, it was particularly fun reading this after having read about this experience with the nativity play over at Hyperbole and a Half. Enjoy!

Dinner Conversation:

"The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world. They lied and stole and smoked cigars (even the girls) and talked dirty and hit little kids and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's old broken-down toohouse.
The toolhouse burned right down to the ground, and I think that surprised the Herdmans. They set fire to things all the time, but that was the first time they managed to burn down a whole building" (p. 1).

"They were just so all-around awful you could hardly believe they were real: Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys--six skinny, stringy-haired kids all alike except for being different sizes and having different black-and-blue places where they had clonked each other.
They lived over a garage at the bottom of Sproul Hill. Nobody used the garage anymore, but the Herdmans used to bang the door up and down just as fast as they could and try to squash one another--that was their idea of a game. Where other people had grass in their front yard, the Herdmans had rocks. And where other people had hydrangea bushes, the Herdmans had poison ivy" (p. 4).

"Mother didn't expect to have anything to do with the Christmas pageant except to make me and my little brother Charlie be in it (we didn't want to) and to make my father go and see it (he didn't want to).
Every year he said the same thing--"I've seen the Christmas pageant."
"You haven't seen this year's Christmas pageant," Mother would tell him. "Charlie is a shepherd this year."
"Charlie was a shepherd last year. go on and go. I'm just going to put on my bathrobe and sit by the fire and relax. There's never anything different about the Christmas pageant."
"There's something different this year," Mother said.
"Charlie is wearing your bathrobe" (pp. 15-16).

Tasty Rating: !!!
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LibraryThing member lalfonso
If you have never met the Herdmans, boy are you missing out. This book tells the story of Beth’s experiences and observations of the Herdmans, a tough family of misfits that hijack a town. When the Herdman’s realized that they could get treats at Sunday school, they decided that they would try
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it out. Once there they decided to take over the Christmas Pagent. This is a delightful tale that 3rd-5th graders will love. It is funny, but has heart.
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LibraryThing member Jellyn
Unfair of me to give it 4 stars when my child self may've given it 5. But oh well. When she shows up and tells me to change it, I will. Right after I ask her where her time machine is.Rudolph is my favorite Christmas television special, and this may be my favorite Christmas book. Though there are a
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few other good ones.The Herdmans are the horrible kids who live down the street like wild creatures. They do everything sweet, adorable, law-abiding kids don't. And they don't go to church. Until they're lured there with rumors of yummy food. And so somehow they also end up in the Christmas pageant. Which naturally is going to ruin it completely!I don't know if I first saw this on television or read the book. I suspect the book came second for me. And I was appalled to find the Tivo had no record of the television movie!! So I had to break down and buy it on DVD.The story is aimed at kids, middle grade perhaps, or slightly younger even. It's told in first person and the way it's written reminded me of Roald Dahl or the first Harry Potter book. Though perhaps not quite as well as either. Close though.It's funny and it tells a Christian message without being too annoying about it.My one quibble is that the narrator, who's a girl whose mother is running the pageant, relays some information and conversations that I can't figure out how she heard about them. I had to suspend my disbelief a little there.Nice, shortish book for anyone who's sick of Santa Claus stories. (I never am. Santa and the North Pole are totally awesome.) True meaning of Christmas, yadda yadda.Oh, it turns out there's a whole series of books about the Herdmans! Why did I never know this? And do I want to read them, or risk being disappointed and having a Christmas memory ruined?Indecision.
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Original language


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Physical description

7.62 inches


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