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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (The Herdmans #1)

4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  26,046 ratings  ·  1,652 reviews
This is a very funny and memorable story of an outrageous family of children who discover the Christmas story and help everyone rediscover its meaning.

The Herdmans--Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys--are horrible. They do horrible things like finding out everybody's weight in order to blackmail the fat kids, and threatening to stuff pussy willows in their en
Hardcover, 81 pages
Published 1972 by Harper & Row, Publishers
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Community Reviews

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Have now read this aloud to my kids two years in a row. One year I hope to be able to make it through the end without sobbing.

2012 reread: It's just not Christmas until you've cried over this book!

2013 reread: Managed to hold it together until the very last paragraph. My kids think I'm nuts for bawling at the end of every Christmas story I read them. One day I hope they'll be crying with me!

2014: Ugh. So much crying at the end! Made it through most of it, though.
Nancy Kelley
"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"

That's what Christmas is about, but it's so easy for longtime Christians to forget. We know the story of Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus, and we've memorized songs about angels and Wise Men. Somewhere along the line, it's easy for it to become rote knowledge, rather than something deep and profound that touches your heart.

But what would happen if you watched a whole family learn this glorious mystery? A family not filled with churchy people--in fact, filled wi
Read this in fifth grade, what a silly wonderful fantastic holiday read.

UPDATED 12/21/2011

So I re-read this.

“The Herdmans were absolutely the worst kids in the history of the world.”

pg. 1

Nothing says Christmas like a bunch of asshole kids taking over the Nativity play. Friends, The Herdmans are children I can get behind. They are bad kids and OWN IT. Totally my type of children. As you well know, I pretty much give in to all of my urges and this holiday season I had that urge to re-read The Best
This is a short children's book that can be read in less than an hour. It was recommended to me by a friend in my ward who says she reads this every year to help her get into the Christmas Spirit. It is a funny, playful story about a Christmas Pageant that happens in a community every year. This year the pageant was a little different after being taken over by the 6 wild hellions in the Herdman family. It is a reminder about the wonderment of the Christmas miracle that some of us may take for gr ...more
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
This is a gem of a story, with a tearjerker ending (well, it was for me).
It's a classic story of a family of children who don't fit in because they are so different, and how they grow to fit in as their classmates begin to know and understand them. I love it--great to read any time, not just around Christmas!
I just read this for the 50th time. There is not another book, not counting picture books like Hats for Sale, that I have read more often. Not even Jane Eyre or Rebecca top out at more than five. When I read it when I taught junior high, I wouldn't let the kids read certain sections, I wanted to read it to them, six times a day, and looked forward to it every time. I still read this every Christmas to check in on the Herdmans to get into the Christmas spirit. Even after all this time I still chu ...more
This book (along with Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, natch) is one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories. It had me almost convinced as a nine-year-old that I should become a loudmouthed arson-prone cigar-smoking little brat. Unfortunately cigars were in short supply at my house, so instead I had to live vicariously through the characters.

Upon reread, I've decided I still adore it with every fiber of my being. "Pshaw!" I say to those naysayers who think it's not religious enough. "Pshaw!
Sarah Finley
This was one of my favorite childhood books, so I thought I should revisit it. It follows the story of a town's Christmas pageant, which is overtaken one year by the Herdmans, the worst kids in the history of the world. They lie and cheat and smoke cigars, burn down buildings, and are probably responsible for 90% of all bruises incurred by the elementary school aged children in the town. Though the changes in the Herdmans aren't extreme and don't even seem to affect most of them, the rest of the ...more
Dec 20, 2009 Jess rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Kids around the age of 8 and anyone who needs a good laugh around Christmas!
I loved this book growing up, and I still love it now. It's one of the best children's Christmas books out there. Besides the fact that it's hilarious, I love that it poses some interesting questions about the traditional Christmas story that we've always heard. I mean, if you think about it, the baby Jesus probably did need burped and why did they let a pregnant woman stay in a barn? I also loved the choice of narration--having a kid narrate was a wise choice because it just added to the humor ...more
Beth F.
Dec 19, 2008 Beth F. rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everybody who celebrates Christmas
"The Herdmans 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."

Fantastic Christmas story. I know I've seen the movie at least a half a dozen times but hadn't remembered if I'd ever read the book, so I checked it out from the library and sat down to read it. A lightning fa
Travis and I read this on Christmas Eve. Just as wonderful if not better than I remembered! Next year I need to get it out early enough to read to the kids. Classic!
Book Concierge
Audio book performed by Elaine Stritch

The six Herdman kids are a handful – and then some. Their father disappeared a few years ago, their mother works a double shift, and the children are pretty much left to their own devices. They lie, steal, smoke cigars, hit little kids, cuss their teachers, and even set fire to a tool shed.

When they show up at Sunday school (because the thought there would be snacks) just as the Christmas Pageant is being cast, they quickly take over. No one else will volunt
Britt Guild
This experience of reading children's literature has brought back so many childhood memories that I have come to realize how truly important literature was to me as child and how vital my responsibility will be as a teacher and mother to verbally sell fantastic literature. I saw this book on the Children's Choices Booklist and it immediately sparked my memory of reading this book in my childhood home.

This book is a clever and funny way to bring children into the love of reading. Children will lo
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 surp ...more
What a fantastic, fantastic book.

I'd never read it before. I hadn't see the play, or watched it. I had heard about it - a lot. I could tell you the story line.

I remember hearing about this book when I was in 4th grade. Mrs. Blyler's class. She was having a conversation with other students about how good it was. They were shocked that I hadn't read it. That'd have been what,? 199...1? Yeah. 1991.

Barbara Robinson really captured something about humanity, and love, and compassion in this book. -The
A great read for kids and adults at Christmas time.
Gwen Martin
I loved this book so much! At least one of my elementary teachers read this book aloud to my class and everyone absolutely loved it. And I know she was not the only teacher to read the book to her class that year. It's just such a great book for this time of year, teaching a great lesson to the readers and entertaining them also. The Herdmans are such a funny group of kids to read about and get to know. You do not like them in the beginning because they are all troublemakers, but then you grow t ...more
Just an absolute gem. Gut-bustingly hilarious, sophisticated comedy for older readers, and wackiness, simple writing, and engagement for the younger readers. Don't have much else to say. Just laugh yourself silly and have fun (and be moved by the surprisingly touching ending). If you read it aloud, make sure to allow yourself plenty of time. It's dangerous in terms of comedy overload.
I loved it! Laugh out loud funny and surprisingly sweet. This is what Christmas is all about. Good job, Herdmans!
Richard Ward
Dec 07, 2014 Richard Ward rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of realistic fiction for children; children; Christians.
Recommended to Richard by: My wife, who read it as a child.
Hilarious & irreverent, yet sweet & thoughtful tale of a church's annual Christmas Pageant gone good by going bad. The naughtiest children in town, whom we learn have been grossly neglected, learn about Jesus, then teach religious people a thing or two, as they present a mildly revised version of the Nativity. The book is a bit on the short side. Reluctant child readers will like its brevity, but others will wish there could have been more. Child readers will remember this book years lat ...more
How have I lived 31 years and never read this? It was amazing. I laughed and cried. So, so good.
I really like this book. I read it when I was very little and I've never forgotten it. It is very short, but I enjoyed the entire thing. Every moment was funny or touching. It also teaches important lessons.
This is a funny little story I remember from my childhood. Seems like it got read to us every Christmas in middle school. Luckily, it was just as cute, funny and touching as it was when I was a kid.
Lisa Nelson
This was the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season. A memorable book that was fun to read out loud, except for at the end where it was difficult to get the words out.
Is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever the best Christmas book ever? It might just be. I know I prefer it to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. One reason why I do is because the book truly captures the getting-it moment, the moment when one realizes the true meaning of Christmas. A Christmas Carol may do an adequate job of "getting" the generosity of Christmas, but it is a Christ-less Christmas story. There is nothing in A Christmas Carol that would point you towards the real meaning of Christmas: ...more
Melanie Bradford
hey,onto you a child is born...this book is a fiction book. I like this book because when the (SPOILER ALERT) herdmans got really interested in the Christmas story about baby Jesus.

This story took place mostly at the church when rehearsing there lines for the Christmas pageant. This story start off with the herdmans doing bad things like saying bad words and not listening to people. Then Charlie told the herdmans about how fun it is at church and that they get lots of things from the church. so
This is definitely a quick read, yet wonderful nonetheless. I remember it from when Jennifer was a little girl and how much of an impression it made on me. It's about a family of six kids, new to town, who are true manifestations of unruly, stingy, dangerous, untrustworthy, etc, and how they impact a small town that is used to things going somewhat smoothly and normally. The kids don't do well academically but get promoted so the teacher won't be stuck next year with not only that child, but the ...more
Alex Baugh
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 promise
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. New York: Harper (1972). 128 p, ISBN: 9780064402750.

This holiday classic tells the story of the horrid Herdmans and their town’s annual Christmas pageant. The six Herdman siblings smoke cigars, curse like crazy, and even burn down a shed with a stolen chemistry set. When the narrator’s mother gets roped into hosting the annual pageant, the Herdmans show up at church (under the guise of free snacks) and bully their way into all of the important
My favorite story about the Herdmans remains the first: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. It best shows off Barbara Robinson’s strengths. For example, who wouldn’t want to keep reading after its famous introduction? Only after it does Robinson takes a step back to tell us who the Herdmans are. In another sign of her craftsmanship, rather than simply telling us how bad the Herdmans are, Robinson expounds upon one of their bad acts: the burning down of an old tool house. While not making light of f ...more
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I grew up in a southern Ohio river town -- Portsmouth -- and that small town atmosphere has affected most of my writing.
My mother, widowed when I was three years old, taught school for forty-nine years in that same small town, and her major (indeed, only) extravagance was books. I grew up with, and quickly adopted, the notion that reading was the only way to fill up every scrap of loose time you
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Other Books in the Series

The Herdmans (3 books)
  • The Best School Year Ever (The Herdmans #2)
  • The Best Halloween Ever (The Herdmans #3)
The Best School Year Ever (The Herdmans #2) The Best Halloween Ever (The Herdmans #3) My Brother Louis Measures Worms: And Other Louis Stories The Best Christmas Pageant Ever/The Best School Year Ever The Best Barbara Robinson Treasury Ever

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“I've got the baby here," Imogene barked at the Wise Men. "Don touch him! I named him Jesus.” 1 likes
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