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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (The Herdmans #1)
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ARCHIVE - BOTM discussions > Book of the Month for December is THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER

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message 1: by Jemima (new)

Jemima Pett | 1282 comments Mod
This is the thread for you to post your comments on this month's book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Firstly, I hope you enjoy it. Second, try not to give too many spoilers in your comments, and third: happy Christmas, or whatever seasonal celebration you favour!


Jaylyn (jaylynya101) | 18 comments I remember my teacher read aloud this to me when I was in 4th or 5th grade (I don't really remember) I'm pretty sure everyone in my class thought it was funny....memories.


Louie | 82 comments I personally really liked it. I found it funny and I enjoyed the descriptions of the Herdmans and their antics. I can see why it is considered a Christmas classic. I highly recommend it.


message 4: by Manybooks (last edited Dec 02, 2018 05:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manybooks | 333 comments The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has been a personal favourite ever since it was read aloud to us in grade four as a pre Christmas treat (and I actually, along with the L.M. Montgomery short story collection Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories and Erich Kaestner's Das fliegende Klassenzimmer, The Flying Classroom do try to reread it EVERY Christmas).

(view spoiler).


SaraKat | 218 comments Mod
I wasn't too impressed. I know this is a classic and everyone loves it, but all I could see were neglected children and hypocritical church-goers. I thought most of the members of the church were lacking severely in Christian love. And it was awful that the only parent that offered a baby for the play after the bad kids joined was a woman who had foster kids--since they apparently aren't as important. Sigh. And my X-chromosomes ached while reading about the father waiting and pacing while the mother was on the phone since he was starving. I guess men in this time period were physically unable to flip pork chops. I guess I'm just not in the right spirit for this book. I know it was written in 1972--different time and all, but I don't think this is a book I'd recommend to kids today. There are better books about the true meaning of Christmas out there.

I liked it when the minister scolded the church members:

He just reminded everyone that when Jesus said "Suffer the little children to come unto me" Jesus meant all the little children, including Herdmans.



message 6: by Maria (new)

Maria Dateno | 44 comments I'm trying to get this from the library. I've never read it before, but I remember seeing the movie. (Which is backwards for me--i always try to read the book before watching the film version. )
I remember thinking it was funny that two of the main characters were named Ralph and Imogene, which were my grandparents' names. I don't know if they have the same names in the book.


SaraKat | 218 comments Mod
Ralph and Imogene were indeed in the book. They were the oldest two Herdmans.


message 8: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Jaeger (jsjaeger) | 171 comments I loved this book as a child and enjoyed it just as much this time around. I agree with SaraKat's thoughts about the hypocrites, and think that's part of why I like it. I think often church members of any faith (including my own faith) can be self-righteous and judgmental and in need of a wake up call about the true meaning of religion.

Regarding the husband upset about dinner. I'm finding myself enjoying many shows and plays less and less because of scenes like this. I'm often floored at how sexist things used to be and how prevalent it is in writing. In saying that, I would still recommend this book to my children and think it could lead to some great discussions.


message 9: by Manybooks (last edited Dec 12, 2018 03:12AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manybooks | 333 comments J.S. wrote: "I loved this book as a child and enjoyed it just as much this time around. I agree with SaraKat's thoughts about the hypocrites, and think that's part of why I like it. I think often church members..."

For me, part of what makes this book so wonderful is how mercilessly and with often biting irony Robinson exposes the holier than thou church pillars of the community as hypocritical Pharisees and how the universally despised and unpolished Herdman children are the ones who show the true meaning of Christmas and demonstrate that much of the Natvity story is actually rather painful and even potentially horrible. And truly, if there had not been that major caesura between the rough but full of spirit and raw emotions Herdman children and the oh so prim and proper but insidiously internally nasty and judgemental church goers and/or goody goody two shoes like that Alice Wendleken, the pageant would have just been same old same old (for indeed, as Beth the narrator states, the Herdman children's reaction to hearing the Nativity story for the first time and how they then acted in their roles as Mary, Joseph etc., this did not just make many truly think about the New Testament accounts of Jesus' birth in a different and novel manner, but also created a truly special and unique Christmas pageant, that was the best ever).

The issue with the father and dinner is definitely a bit of a problem but something that in my opinion can also easily be discussed as unacceptable datedness of attitude (and should be) especially since the book was originally published in 1972. Now truth be told I do tend to find it somewhat frustrating that we sometimes seem to actually accept reading materials for children from the early 20th century and even prior that is truly problematic with regard to gender roles, social stratification and the like but then totally baulk at similar but generally much less overt datedness from the 50s, 60s and 70s and would rather our children not even be exposed to and read this, instead of accepting both as historically relevant scenarios that need to be discussed.


SaraKat | 218 comments Mod
I agree with you guys who said that the book could spark discussion about differences in time periods. I think the best thing is when parents and children discuss these issues when reading books. It is entertaining and the message about understanding the meaning of the Christmas story rather than just going through the motions is a good one. I sometimes wonder how much of the things that I nitpicked would actually be noticed by a middle grade reader.


message 11: by Manybooks (last edited Dec 12, 2018 03:20AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Manybooks | 333 comments SaraKat wrote: "I agree with you guys who said that the book could spark discussion about differences in time periods. I think the best thing is when parents and children discuss these issues when reading books. I..."

I do remember that when the book was read aloud to us in grade four (in 1976), most of us definitely could easily figure out that Barbara Robinson was criticising hypocritical church worthies with many of her portrayals (although the bit about the father and dinner I did not really pick up on until much later even though I do recall that I thought he was being a bit annoying and demanding considering that the mother had been saddled with a pretty work intensive church Christmas project and had to deal with constant complaints and annoying phone calls).

And after our teacher had finished with reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever to us, we then did discuss many of the issues that had presented themselves (especially how and why the Herdman children saw the Nativity story so differently). But in retrospect, considering that much of that discussion focused on the "true" meaning of Christmas, I do wonder if in today's more multicultural classrooms, reading this story aloud and then discussing things like church hypocrisy and what the meaning of Christmas is or should be might indeed be much more potentially problematic if not perhaps even unacceptable, as in 1976, in our grade four classroom, I think almost all of the students were Christian and of European background (something that would more than likely no longer be the case nowadays). And no, I am not saying that The Best Christmas Pageant Ever should no longer be used as a read aloud in a given classroom but that in 2018, there might be more issues with potential religious and cultural suitability and the like than there was in 1976, especially in public school (and although the discussions could easily be streamlined as to not appear as being evangelising, the topic might still cause issues and there might be parental objections).


message 12: by Natalia (new) - added it

Natalia Heaney | 5 comments I honestly don't think I've heard of this book before. Not sure if it's something people who grew up in Australia (like me) are familiar with.

I've added it to my TBR, and will try and get to it soon!


message 13: by Paula (new)

Paula S (paula_s) I remember this book from when I was a child, and it will be fun to reread. I wonder if I will enjoy it as much now that I'm older :)


message 14: by Trudy (new)

Trudy McDaniel | 30 comments For the first time I listened to the book. Carol Channing (if you are old enough to remember her) has a really distinctive voice and "probably" ;D does a better job than I ever did reading it aloud, but I missed the fun of doing it myself. Seriously, it was truly enjoyable.


Manybooks | 333 comments Trudy wrote: "For the first time I listened to the book. Carol Channing (if you are old enough to remember her) has a really distinctive voice and "probably" ;D does a better job than I ever did reading it aloud..."

Wow, I cannot really imagine Carol Channing's voice narrating this novel (I love her as an actress but I cannot really picture her as the voice of and for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, especially considering that the narrator, Beth, is supposed to be a young school-aged girl).


message 16: by Trudy (new)

Trudy McDaniel | 30 comments Manybooks wrote: "Trudy wrote: "For the first time I listened to the book. Carol Channing (if you are old enough to remember her) has a really distinctive voice and "probably" ;D does a better job than I ever did re..."
I definitely had problems with it at first but decided to just accept her voice ... and thus my reason for mentioning that I enjoyed hearing my voice doing the reading more. It would be nice if someone else did the narration.


Manybooks | 333 comments Trudy wrote: "Manybooks wrote: "Trudy wrote: "For the first time I listened to the book. Carol Channing (if you are old enough to remember her) has a really distinctive voice and "probably" ;D does a better job ..."

I guess theoretically, the voice should at least sound youngish as it is a first person narrative of a school aged girl.


message 18: by Duane (new)

Duane Ostler | 3 comments Thanks ManyBooks for suggesting 'The Flying Classroom' by Erich Kaestner. It is another great Christmas read.


Manybooks | 333 comments Duane wrote: "Thanks ManyBooks for suggesting 'The Flying Classroom' by Erich Kaestner. It is another great Christmas read."

One of my favourites since childhood!


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