The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Herdmans were the worst kids in the whole history of the world.  They lied and stole and smoked cigars, even the girls, and talked dirty and cussed their teachers and took the name of the Lord in vain and set fire to Fred Shoemaker's broken down tool shed.
One of my all-time favorite Christmas stories is Barbara Robinson's The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  The book was first published in 1972.  Twelve years later, when I was in first grade, the television movie version starring Loretta Swit and Fairuza Balk aired and the book was all the rage at my elementary school.  Teachers read it out loud, and I remember classes gathering in the library to watch the TV movie.

Here's another bit of awesome family entertainment!

It's such a classic.  The meanest kids in town show up at church one Sunday, because they heard there would be refreshments.  It happens to be the day the Sunday School kids meet to cast the Christmas pageant.  The mean kids take over all the lead roles, learn about Christmas, and help the town see the Christmas story in a whole new light.

Last year, Big Sis went on a field trip to see the stage play.  (The joke:  She could have been a Baby Angel in the play, but didn't want to do it.  She was so afraid her actor mommy would pressure her, she even hid the form they gave her in theatre class!  Sigh.)  Although I read the book to her when she was four, the story was mostly forgotten.  This year, we watched the TV movie, read the new picture book adaptation, started the original book, and we may even see the play again this weekend!

Our copy is a paperback reprint from a few years ago.

And yes, if you think your child is a bit too young to sit through the novel, there is a picture book edition!  Published in 2011, the illustrations are by Laura Cornell, best known for her collaborations with Jamie Lee Curtis.  The essential story is there.  I like the novel better (too much funniness to be contained in a picture book!), but the picture book is a great introduction.

Excerpts are available at the HarperCollins website.
One of the fun parts about reading the book now is the girls are Christmas pageant vets themselves.  After some rough patches - Big Sis had a hard time in her lamb years, despite making her debut at 3 months old as Baby Jesus - the girls settled happily into their roles of angel and lamb last year.

Ah, Christmas...


  1. Haha I remember this book! I haven't seen the tv version though - will have to watch that later!

    1. "Hey! Unto you a child is born!" It's very faithful to the book. I believe the author wrote the teleplay herself.

  2. I have a classic story about this one ~ I unwrapped one of my presents when I was 8, saw that it was this book, eagerly read it, and then WRAPPED IT BACK UP.

    I love this book! J's teacher is reading it to her class at school. I forgot about the cigars, that was so priceless!

    Love the girls in their pageant wear!!

    1. That's fantastic! It's such a great book. It had been years since I read it, and we had so much fun! Such a classic.

      Thanks! The pageant is only 2 days before Christmas this year, and the day AFTER my sister's wedding, which we're all in. We're going to miss our one big pageant rehearsal, so we'll just plug the girls that morning. They've done it before, so it should be fine, right?

  3. I remember that movie too! I dont know that I ever read the book though (now I want to!) I'm going to see if that movie is on netflix :)

    1. It isn't on Netflix, is it? :o(

      I must say, that even after watching the movie twice this month, and after reading the picture book, I'm still having a blast reading the novel. It's a short book and a fast read. You must check it out!


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