Getting closer to Christmas, and guess what, it's Thursday! I know I haven't done a Throwback Thursday in a while, but be prepared for one today. Hooray!
Title: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Author: Barbara Robinson
Publisher: Harper & Row, 1972
Where I got it/why I read it: I was reminded of this book by Anita Silvey in her fantastic resource, her Children's Book-A-Day Almanac, and immediately checked to see if it was available at my library. It was! I checked it out.
The Herdmans are rotten kids, each and every one of them, and delight in causing trouble. They are menaces, mean kids who bully and go out of their way to make someone's life miserable. So when they show up at church (they heard there's food there) and get all the leading roles of the Christmas pageant, everyone is sure they're going to completely and totally ruin everything. But the Herdmans have never even heard the Christmas story before, how Jesus was born, and what happens is enough to surprise every single person in town.
I read this years and years ago, to the point that I had forgotten most of the story. It's pretty much one of the greatest Christmas stories ever, and I forgot that until I read it again this past weekend. Not only is it told in a funny way that is easy to read for younger kids, it's touching and real. How would you react to hearing the story of Christmas for the first time? The Herdmans are outraged that anyone would make a pregnant woman sleep in a stable, and that some king dude went out hunting for the little baby before he was even born so he could kill him.
The Herdmans, though they bully, threaten others, and smoke cigars (even the girls), challenge the "good" kids to think about the pageant and about what they're involved in in a way they never have before. The unnamed narrator drives it home with her own thinking, and part of this book's beauty is that it doesn't seem contrived at all. It's genuine, and the kids' curiosity and questions bring fresh perspective to a story most of us grew up hearing.
At 80 pages, it's a short book but WELL worth taking the hour or two to read. Or, if you have kids of your own, take ten minutes a night to read it to them before bed. They'll love the antics of Herdmans, and they'll think about the story in a whole new way.
I should mention, you don't have to be super religious to enjoy this book either. Crazy things happen, and busybody old ladies get put in their place in the end.