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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

(The Herdmans #1)

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  41,828 ratings  ·  2,570 reviews
Laughs abound in this bestselling Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The siblings take over the annual Christmas pageant in a hilarious yet heartwarming tale involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kid ...more
Hardcover, Illustrated, 80 pages
Published January 1st 1972 by HarperCollins
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Carol Children's fiction would probably be the overriding genre. It's also basically a school story (although it takes place more in a church than at…moreChildren's fiction would probably be the overriding genre. It's also basically a school story (although it takes place more in a church than at school).(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Camille24 Ralph, Imogen, Ollie, Claude, Gladys and Leroy

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4.18  · 
Rating details
 ·  41,828 ratings  ·  2,570 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.

2015: Blubbered my way through th
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After some problems with one Christmas book (which I had to delete), I found myself under the spell of this book. It amply deserves all the praise it got and is getting.

Going in, I didn't have many expectations and the first chapter seemed tepid. But then that direction the story took enhanced its quality. For a feelgood book, it was never sentimental. It was realistic, wise, funny even.

I didn't get any cheap vibes coming from the ending. Those villainous little children didn't seem to change fo
C.G. Drews
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
I have loved Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever for decades (ever since our grade four homeroom teacher read it aloud to us as a pre Christmas treat in grade four, in 1976). And ever since 1976, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a yearly prior to Christmas reading ritual for me, and ever year, I seem to love and appreciate both the story and its messages and lessons a bit more. Now of course first and foremost, there is much laugh out loud humour encountered in The Best Christma ...more
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful story from my youth that I will add to my annual reading list (and hope to get my son hooked soon)!

The Herdmans are a collection of six hellion children. When they hear about free and plentiful refreshments are being offered at Sunday School, they decide to attend one week. That happens to be the same week that Christmas Pageant rehearsals are announced. Enter the entire Herdman clan, who decide that they want in. Soon thereafter, they find themselves with all the staring roles and t
Nancy Kelley
Dec 03, 2013 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
I laughed throughout this hilarious story of the Herdmans consisting of Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys. My first thought is that I can see why the kids are terrible if their parents named them that.

This is honestly a short and sweet story about a clan of terrible kids who have their whole neighborhood and community in terror of what they are going to do next. I did laugh at one line that said that the Herdmans were the worst kids in the history of the world, they lied, stole,
Candace Robinson
I would read this book over and over again at Christmas time. The kids were bad, really bad, but their circumstances were tough! I just loved the whole pageant setup and seeing the characters grow. Also a fun fact: Fairuza Balk from The Craft was in the TV movie!!
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!
Feb 15, 2009 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
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 they thought there would be snacks) just as the Christmas Pageant is being cast, they quickly take over. No one else will volun
Dec 05, 2008 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
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Second Read: November 24, 2017 - November 30, 2017
I read this with my grade 6 class. They voted on the next book and this won. They enjoyed it.

First Read:
When I was in elementary school I had a teacher read this to my class. I remember this being hilarious and something I looked forward to having read to me.
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It is such a great story. But what I loved, loved, loved was the audio. The narrator did an outstanding job....definitely 5 star worthy here. I grew up in a lot of military housing and the first thing we (my older siblings) did was to identify the Herdmans. It didn't matter where we lived, there was always always that family we steered clear of. So I had to laugh at a lot of this. Maybe a time or two, we were the Herdmans. Just sayin'.
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 F
Sep 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
"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. She always cries through the end.

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 pregnan
Oh my goodness, this book! I went into it unsure what to expect, but I was certainly not disappointed. It's an engaging story, chocked with side-splitting humor. The small town vibes, the delightfully funny writing style, the main character's voice, this book is a gem.

Since reading, I had the privilege of attending a live performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, produced by a local theatre group. They did a fabulous job of bringing the story to life! <3

Four angel wings out of five!
I have read this book at least three times if not more. I don't remember it making me cry. Or maybe like the narrator in this story, I am just beginning to understand the true meaning of Christmas.

I'm glad this was written in the 70s. No fear of being politically correct because people in real life aren't.
Melissa McShane
The six Herdman children are a nightmare--undisciplined, vicious, ignorant, and the bane of every adult's existence. When a chance lie brings them to church in late November for the first time ever, everyone thinks they'll get bored of it. But late November is when the church Christmas pageant starts, and soon the Herdmans have blackmailed or bullied everyone to the point that when the pageant organizer asks for volunteers for Mary, Joseph, the three Wise Men, and the Angel of the Lord, no one s ...more
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
Clare Bird
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite Christmas book ever, perhaps one of my favorite books in the world. An easy quick ready that everyone should read! I love the humor and simplicity and the reminder of the wonderful season! I enjoy reading it every year!
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.
My daughter brought this book home the other day from school and I re read it again for the first time in years!!! I even read it to her!! Classic book!!!
Helena Sorensen
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 10, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Dec 20, 2009 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
Nov 18, 2008 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
This is simply an absolutely beautiful story. It insights compassion within young and old and reminds us of the true significance of the Christmas season. We just love this book. Best done as a read aloud.
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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

Other books in the series

The Herdmans (3 books)
  • The Best School Year Ever (The Herdmans #2)
  • The Best Halloween Ever (The Herdmans #3)
“I've got the baby here," Imogene barked at the Wise Men. "Don touch him! I named him Jesus.” 12 likes
“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.” 4 likes
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