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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

(The Herdmans #1)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  44,428 ratings  ·  2,893 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
Paperback, 128 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by HarperCollins (first published 1972)
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Camille24 Ralph, Imogen, Ollie, Claude, Gladys and Leroy
Sally taylor Try the LIBBY app on your phone. I get all my audio and ebooks for free from there

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 ·  44,428 ratings  ·  2,893 reviews

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Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Funny Christmas stories
This charming story is timeless. Reading this, I realize that I red this as a child and it brought it all back to me. The story is easy to read in one setting.

Growing up in the church and seeing some of these pageants, this story is so funny for me. The church puts on the exact same Christmas pageant each year. At school, there is a poor family who are very mean, they are the school bullies and they disrupt everything. The story is told from the point of view of a child of the pageant director,
C.G. Drews
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Tucker  (TuckerTheReader)

This book was one of the most nostalgic books of my childhood! Want to find out the other nostalgic books? Check out my latest Booktube video

Happy reading!


i need to re-read this in December. This was one of my favorite Christmas books when I was younger

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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
Nancy Kelley
Dec 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"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 love Christmas, but that doesn't mean I like the fact that the Hallmark Mystery Channel betrays me every year and goes non-stop Christmas goo from freacking October into January. October through January is the Christmas season? TNT, you failed me too this year. Bring me back The Closer.

Anyhoo, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a wonderfully acerbic yet still tear-jerking Christmas story. Perfect to put a sneer of joy on the Scrooge in your life.

The Herdman children are "those" kids that pret
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,
A friend of mine who is a librarian insisted I listen to this book and I am so glad she did! It's a delightful tale about a large family of children, who, shall we say have behavioral issues? When they decide they want to be in the annual Christmas pageant, everyone is rightly concerned about their conduct, not to mention their language (which is decidedly not appropriate in a Church setting!) and their personal hygiene.

Although it is well known as a children's story, I can see why so many adult
Kathryn in FL
My parents were leaders in an evangelical church when I was growing up, thus, as children, we were participants in church theatrics. I do not recall the various positions I held or those of my siblings but that isn't really important to this review.

The crux is when you get amateurs of various ages and talents together to put on a production anything is possible. One thing you can expect is the unexpected. Most likely its outcome, however is that key components of the story will not be reflected
Candace Robinson
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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!!
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book! And in high school, I was Imogene Herdman in the school play.❤️
Feb 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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!
Nov 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
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.
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.
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 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christmas book lovers and collectors
Hilarious and heartwarming; another one of my many favorites! It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it. The opening paragraph is unforgettable: "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." That doesn't sound like much of a Christmas story, doe ...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
This is a favorite not just because it resonants with my life experience, raised as a white church kid, but also because it was read often to our family by parents who were often in situations where they were the ones pulled in to produce and/or manage the holiday "scene" or "program" for our community. I think I speak for my sibs as I claim a "we" pronoun here - we were often cast as whatever manager character was either not available that year or more of same was needed. . . I've been everythi ...more
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
Dec 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
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!
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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'.
Sarah F
Sep 26, 2009 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
Clare Bird
May 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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!
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Reread for Christmas 2019.
Hadn't read this in years (back when my daughter was little) but we still loved it.
Merie Shen
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reread this today for no reason. What a trip down the memory lane 😆
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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)

Articles featuring this book

The holiday season is all about comfort and joy, but—let's be real—it can be a bit hectic too. That's why we suggest cozying up with a b...
45 likes · 15 comments
“I've got the baby here," Imogene barked at the Wise Men. "Don touch him! I named him Jesus.” 15 likes
“They looked like the people you see on the six o’clock news—refugees, sent to wait in some strange ugly place, with all their boxes and sacks around them. It suddenly occurred to me that this was just the way it must have been for the real Holy Family, stuck away in a barn by people who didn’t much care what happened to them. They couldn’t have been very neat and tidy either, but more like this Mary and Joseph” 10 likes
More quotes…