The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Book Poster Image

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever



A unique and entertaining spin on an age-old tale.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Main characters are extreme troublemakers (set fires, steal, and lie) and display overall mean-spiritedness toward others (threatening, bullying, and gossiping). Main characters and narrator reflect negative attitudes toward overweight children.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Lots of talk about cussing. One mild expletive.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Imogene, a young girl, smokes cigars (illustration provided).

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this is a unique and entertaining spin on an age-old tale. Some parents may want to exercise discretion: Not everyone will want their children exposed to the antics of the main characters or will appreciate the liberties the story takes with what some people may consider sacred ground. Also, because the story centers on a popular Christian childhood event, some of the meaning and irony may be lost on readers unfamiliar with Christmas pageants, but everyone can appreciate the universal humor and underlying meaning. Main characters model outlandishly horrible behavior.

What's the story?

The Herdmans are the meanest, nastiest group of six unruly siblings in town. They'll ruin the Christmas Pageant for sure ... or will they? This is a chuckle-on-every-page, action-packed account of how one town deals with the biggest Christmas-pageant challenge in their history.

Meet the Herdmans--six awful kids and one stressed-out cat, all prone to mischief of the worst kind. Like the time they set fire to Fred Shoemaker's toolhouse while playing with a stolen chemistry set, or when Claude Herdman \"emptied the whole first grade in three minutes flat when he took the cat to Show-and Tell.\"

The Herdman kids attend Sunday school only because they think they'll get to eat cake there. Once Christmas pageant plans begin, they intimidate all the other children into letting them volunteer for the biggest parts. When the town reacts with horror to the news that the most sinful children will be playing the holiest roles, the pageant director becomes even more determined to make it work. Even though they look more like trick-or-treaters than Bible figures, the Herdmans don't ruin the pageant; instead, they improve it, and give the story a surprisingly sentimental ending.

Is it any good?


THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER has an edge -- but presented from a child's point of view, the edge is funny, irreverent, and irresistible. Author Barbara Robinson's prose is fast, clever, and very funny. But exercise parental discretion; not all parents will want their children exposed to the antics of the main characters or will appreciate the liberties taken with what some people may consider sacred ground.

Though it's all in fun, it offers a subtle but important lesson: Just because you're bad doesn't mean you're hopeless. The Herdmans voluntarily go to the library to research their parts in the play, and Imogene's final scene shows an unlikely side to her character that's sure to stir up compassion and encourage mature readers to reflect on its meaning. Because the story centers on a popular Christian childhood event, some of the meaning and irony may be lost on readers unfamiliar with Christmas pageants. But everyone can appreciate the universal humor and underlying meaning.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about community outcasts. Do you think the rest of town would treat the Herdmans differently after the pageant? Do you think the Herdman children would behave differently if the community treated them more gently?

Book details

Author:Barbara Robinson
Illustrator:Judith G. Brown
Book type:Fiction
Publication date:January 1, 1972
Number of pages:80
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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Adult Written byqwertyuiop April 9, 2008
Educator and Parent Written byCommonSenseChristian May 5, 2015

Take the Family to This Christmas Pageant

The Herdmans are the absolute worst kids in the history of the world. Okay, maybe not the world, but they're certainly awful. They lie, steal, hit, take the Lord's name in vain, cuss out their teachers, smoke cigars (even the girls), and wreak havoc wherever they go. So naturally, when they show up at church and volunteer to play the lead roles in the Christmas pageant, everybody thinks it will be a disaster. But narrator Beth Bradley's mother, who's subbing for the original director, is determined to make this the best pageant ever, Herdmans or no Herdmans. She actually succeeds--or rather, the Herdmans do it for her. You see, they've had no exposure whatsoever to church or the Christmas story. So what a lot of Pharisee-like church members see as sacrilege are actually valid points. Why would Mary be consigned to give birth to the Son of God in a barn--where's Social Services? Shouldn't somebody show Herod who's boss? What do a bunch of shepherds have to do with anything? What if the Wise Men squealed to Herod about the baby Jesus' location? What the heck are Mary and Joseph gonna do with a bunch of fragrant oils--why don't the Wise Men give them something practical, like, you know, a ham? As Beth says, all these questions give her plenty to think about, and the rest of the church as well. As noted, the Herdmans are not good fictional role models for your kids. Being in the Christmas pageant doesn't improve their behavior, either. Several church members don't act any better, behaving as if the Herdmans exist only to ruin everything (self-fulfilling prophecy, anyone)? In general though, this is a sweet story with a few rough edges that will give your family some fresh perspective on an age-old, treasured story and tradition.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 13 years old Written byChucknorris443719 December 19, 2010

Great for reading in class, 7+ ages.

What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages