Robinson, Barbara. 1972. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
This little gem of a book is only 90 pages long. It's been a favorite of mine for years, and I really can't recommend it highly enough. It is just one of the best Christmas books ever.
The Herdman's 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 toolhouse. (1)
Meet the Herdman's: Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie and Gladys. They're described as "six stringy-haired kids all alike except for being different sizes and having different black-and-blue places where they had clonked each other." (4)
The first chapter we see what they're all about--the troubles they cause, the fear they create among their peers, etc. But chapter two is when it really gets exciting.
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. No...you go on and go. I'm just going to put on my bathrobe and sit by the fire and relax. There's nevery anything different about the Christmas pageant."
"There's something different this year," Mother said.
"Charlie is wearing your bathrobe."
So that year my father went...to see his bathrobe, he said.
Actually, he went every year but it was always a struggle, and Mother said that was her contribution to the Christmas pageant--getting my father to go to it. (17-18)
Here is where we learn that this won't be an ordinary pageant as we plainly see in chapter three at the casting. This year the Herdmans land all the big roles--through fear and intimidation, yes--but the roles are theirs just the same.
The first pageant rehearsal was usually about as much fun as a three-hour ride on the school bus, and just as noisy and crowded. This rehearsal, though, was different. Everybody shut up and settled down right away, for fear of missing something awful that the Herdmans might do. (43)
It soon becomes evident that this pageant will be one-of-a-kind, though no one quite expects it to turn out the way it does. Let the Herdmans surprise you this Christmas!
The Best Christmas Pageant is funny and charming and true-to-life. It makes a great read aloud too!