The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (a Review)

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is written by Barbara Robinson. If, like me, you haven’t met the Herdman family before, you are in for a real treat. This family of six feral children punch, lie, steal, set fire to things and generally cause mischief all around the town:

“They were just so all-around awful you could hardly believe they were real: Ralphy, 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.”

Imagine the scandal when the Herdman tribe decide to join Sunday school. Their interest is in the desserts they believe are handed out each week; but instead they discover the wonder of the Christmas story for the first time in their lives. The rest of the children, too scared to tell them to leave, are left trying to avoid being hit and waiting for the inevitable disaster.

With a set of characters like this, you could wonder why this is such a fun and funny book to read. It is an easy read, with a nice pace and, despite being written in the 1970’s, its theme and humor will still appeal to modern boys and girls around 8-11 years.

The story is told by one of the Herdman’s classmates – their bad behaviour is reported in the story but not shown in detail as it is carried out. This allows the reader to be shocked by what they do without having to get too close to the actual doing, which leads to great ‘can you believe what those children did?’ humor and discussion.

It is the narrator’s mother who is landed with the job of directing the Christmas pageant and the Herdman clan make it clear they will be filling all the lead roles. As rehearsals progress, the Christmas story is slowly discovered by the Herdmans (with a few incidences along the way) as the director patiently tries to answer all the questions they present her with. With everyone in the town giving their opinion on how the pageant should be done, she graciously carries on and is determined to let the Herdmans have their chance.

When the pageant is presented, it is a unique interpretation which shows the human side of the Christmas story: “But as far as I’m concerned, Mary is always going to look a lot like Imogene Herdman – sort of nervous and bewildered, but ready to clobber anyone who laid a hand on her baby. And the Wise Men are always going to be Leroy and his brothers, bearing ham.”

There are two other stories by Barbara Robinson which feature the Herdman family, and after reading this one, I am sure you will also be keen to find out what else they get up to: look for The Best Halloween Ever and The Best School Year Ever.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (a Review)

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About Vanessa Hatley-Owen

A book lover and children's story writer from New Zealand.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.” - Dr Seuss.


  1. Oh My, is that book still around?! It was one of my favourites as a kid! Thanks for bringing back the memories 😉

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