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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (The Herdmans #1)

4.18  ·  Rating Details  ·  28,883 Ratings  ·  1,839 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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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.

2015: Blubbered my way through th
Cait Grace
This was totally a walk-down-childhood-memory-lane read for me. Once year, when I was like 12, I read this TWICE...back to back! IN ONE DAY. So you can say it's a definite absolutely adored favourite book. And even now, when I'm an old grey melon of a human, IT IS STILL HILARIOUS. And special! It's like only 100-pages, so it definitely just gets in and says what it wants to say, no fluffing about. But it's a) hilarious, and b) really thought-provoking, and c) exceptionally well written. Honestly ...more
Nancy Kelley
Dec 05, 2013 Nancy Kelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Dec 21, 2011 April rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 05, 2008 Rachelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Leah Good
Every year the Christmas pageant is the same. The church kids don't want to be shepherds or wise men or caroling angels, and the parents don't want to sit through the same old thing all over again. Everything is about to change. It all starts when Charlie tells one of the Herdmans that there are snacks at church. The Herdmans are the worse children in town--maybe the worst kids ever. They steal, lie, smoke cigars, and burn things down. Even worse, they want to be in the Christmas pageant!

This st
Sep 14, 2014 Anita rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sarah Finley
Sep 26, 2009 Sarah Finley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
This is fantastic!!! I can't believe I found a Christmas book for my nieces and it's not even sappy!!! It's so funny and it's perfect for both of their age groups and I love it. A lot. The Herdmans stole my heart.
Jubilation Lee
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!
Dec 20, 2009 Jessika rated it it was amazing  ·  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 it was amazing  ·  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
"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"

Muzzy has read this aloud to us every Christmas since the dawn of time and Christmas isn't Christmas until she does so.

The book points out that Mary and Joseph were just people. They had days when they woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and they managed to burn the bread, and cut themselves and stub their toes. They weren't perfect, which just makes the Christmas story more so. Because God can use anybody--even an unwed pregnant teenager like Mary, or a family
Jan 01, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kid-favorite
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!
carl  theaker
Dec 30, 2015 carl theaker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Always like to read a seasonal tale at Christmas time and as I discovered this one in a box of our decorations when putting up the tree this year, (how was it in there all these years and this is the first I’d seen it? perhaps a little Christmas magic? ) this one was perfect.

This amusing short story fits in with the genre of ‘Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun’. A youth’s view of all the mayhem that goes with the typical American Elementary School Christmas pageant, made even more frantic with t
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
Apr 12, 2014 Britt Guild rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 05, 2011 Tahleen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: childrens-books
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
Oct 28, 2015 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Childhood favorite.
Nov 11, 2015 Dennis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Modern Christmas stories that are targeted to adults are almost always romances (or, less frequently, murder mysteries) set at Christmas time, so these would not appeal to most children. Modern Christmas stories targeting the young are not usually stories that adults would enjoy reading on their own; they often seem to center around popular children’s cartoon characters. So the ability of Barbara Robinson’s 1972 classic The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to be read with enjoyment by readers of any ...more
Gwen Martin
Dec 04, 2014 Gwen Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, book-talk
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
Leah Beecher
Dec 18, 2015 Leah Beecher rated it it was amazing
This is one of the few books I have read several times; for myself, and for each of my four children. What makes this book awesome is that every single time I read this story I cry at the end, but it is not sentimental. It pokes fun at American church culture, but is never irreverent. It makes you and your children laugh out loud like reading Junie B. Jones, but without the bad grammar. Reading this book again this year some things really struck me. One of them is the antiquity of this story. It ...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.
Nov 14, 2014 Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 it was amazing  ·  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
Dec 21, 2015 Elisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. I've loved it since 1981, when it was assigned to me to read over my Christmas break my junior year in college. The first sentence, "The Herdmans were the worst kids in the history of the world," made me laugh out loud as I was waiting for my snow tires to be put on my car. I loved it every year that I read it to my students while teaching elementary school. I loved it every year I read it to my own children. But it had been awhile since I had read it, so I picked it up this De ...more
Nov 02, 2014 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How have I lived 31 years and never read this? It was amazing. I laughed and cried. So, so good.
Feb 02, 2016 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kidreads
My kids loved reading this aloud this Christmas. Cute story!
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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
More about Barbara Robinson...

Other Books in the Series

The Herdmans (3 books)
  • The Best School Year Ever (The Herdmans #2)
  • The Best Halloween Ever (The Herdmans #3)

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“I've got the baby here," Imogene barked at the Wise Men. "Don touch him! I named him Jesus.” 6 likes
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