Monday, December 23, 2013

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

When I was a kid and I still went to Sunday School, I used to love Christmas pageant day.  There was something magical about performing the Christmas story late in the afternoon, in the semi-darkened sanctuary that made the holiday and all of it anticipation feel suddenly so exciting.

And when I picked up The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever again after all these years, that feeling returned to me - but only until I remembered the Herdman kids.  What was I thinking, I asked myself, when I promised to read this story to the kids this year?

The Herdmans are every teacher's nightmare - pranksters, cigar smokers, firebrands, just plain mean bullies and all still in elementary school.  There's Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys - one for every grade.  It seems the Herdmans were everywhere with one exception Sunday School.

But, after Leroy began to steal our narrator's little brother Charlie's lunchbox dessert. he made the mistake of telling him that he didn't care, that they had all the refreshments they wanted every week at Sunday School.

So the next Sunday, there they were - all six Herdmans looking for refreshments and instead of scarfing up goodies, they ended up scarfing up all the best parts in the Christmas pageant.  See, our narrators mom had ended up with the responsibility of the pageant this year and didn't quite have the same business-like savvy as that of Mrs. George Anderson and her years of Christmas pageant experience.  But that worked to the Herdmans advantage.

When she realizes the Herdmans don't know why Christmas is important, well-meaning, gentle mom-turned-pageant director actually takes the time to read the Christmas story to them, managing to actually bring it home to them and unleashing a fascination about Herod (and not because they thought he was cool) that inspired them to go get library cards and read about him.

Slowly, and differently, the pageant comes together, to the anger and dismay some in the congregation who resented the Herdmans taking over and the pageant director not doing anything about it.  And yet, in the end the Herdmans, in their tough innocence, have something to teach everyone about the true meaning of Christmas and that is what makes this story such a nice book for the season.

Published in 1972, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has held up remarkably well over the years.  Robinson has really capture the true spirit of the season in the Herdmans interpretation of the Christmas story - all the fear, the confusion, the anxiety and even the fear that Mary and Joseph must have actually felt.  And they understood the importance of what was happening, even if they thought the Wise Men brought dump gifts and replaced them with what they considered to be a more valuable, more cherished gift in the true spirit of giving - the ham the Herdmans were given as part of the charity basket they received from the church.

So take a step back from the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping and all its trappings and take a little time to read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with your kids.  You might be very surprised at wheat they have to say about it.

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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