THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER by Barbara Robinson
The Herdmans are terrible. They’re the worst kids in town. And now they’re set to star in the annual Christmas pageant.
I can still remember laughing until my sides hurt when my 5th grade teacher read this book aloud, and it remains satisfyingly hilarious. Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are delightfully awful kids, and watching them wreak havoc with the traditional, staid Christmas pageant is pure fun.
This story is about a Christmas pageant at a church, so if you’re avoiding any Christmas-themed readings this year, steer clear of this one. Even though it gets a little sentimental about the “real meaning” of Christmas, though, the fact that everyone has to explain the Christmas story to the Herdmans gives it a playfulness that transcends religion. (Imogene, playing Mary, is horrified that they “tie the baby Jesus up and put him in a feedbox” and wants to know why no one called Child Services about that.) I think it does a nice job contrasting our shiny, perfect version of the story of Christmas with the historical facts of what it actually would have been like for a refugee family with a pregnant woman trying to make the best of a tough situation. The Herdmans get into the story, not just the mythology: They want to take down baby-murdering Herod and smack the interfering shepherds, and it’s a refreshingly funny way of looking at this very traditional story. If you do celebrate Christmas, you’ll probably find this story both funny and tender; if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you’ll appreciate the humor and the Herdman’s confusion over some of the details. Honestly, I think it would make a fun introduction to the traditional Christmas story since it manages to be both skeptical and respectful at the same time.
And did I mention that it’s hilarious?
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