“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.” Thus begins The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, one of the funniest books I have ever read.
I began reading this short, seven-chapter book aloud to my boys, not knowing what to expect. By page four, after reading about how the six Herdman children enjoy trying to squish each other in the garage door and about their evil cat, we were practically rolling on the floor laughing: “There was also a sign in the yard that said, ‘Beware Of The Cat.’ New kids always laughed about that till they got a look at the cat. It was the meanest looking animal I ever saw. It had one short leg and a broken tail and one missing eye….”
The basic story line is that the Herdmans, the worst kids in the history of the world, invade the church one day, hoping for snacks, force their way into the church Christmas pageant, and help everyone see the Christmas story in a whole new light.
And this is the best part of the book. The shenanigans are hilarious, but the books causes you to stop and ask yourself, “What if I had never, ever heard the Christmas story before?” Well, the Herdmans had not heard the story, and when they did, “You would have thought the Christmas story came right out of the F.B.I. files, they got so involved in it – wanted a bloody end to Herod, worried about Mary having her baby in a barn, and called the Wise Men a bunch of dirty spies.” In the midst of the laughter, we got a glimpse of the magic and wonder of the Christmas story -- a story that, sadly, becomes too predictable after hearing it year after year.
I love this book. We laughed, we cried, but in the end, it helped us see that Christmas is about Jesus, “a new baby, and his mother and father who were in a lot of trouble – no money, no place to go, no doctor, nobody they knew.” I think we’ll read this book every year!
Thanks Cathy H. for giving us this book. You were right! Our boys did enjoy it!