#73 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson (1972)
My mom read this to us (my sister and I, and sometimes all the kids at church while we were waiting in costume for our own Christmas pageant) every Christmas, and we’d crack up every year. I read part of it to my class during my one year of classroom teaching, and I still remember one of my more difficult students exclaiming, about the Herdmans, “Man, they were REALLY bad!” – Libby Gorman
People should read this every Christmas. Laugh out loud. Be thankful the Herdmans don’t live in your town. - Kristi Hazelrigg
Or come to your library after school for that matter. It is with the greatest of pleasure that I welcome them to this list, though. In this, Robinson’s surprising Christmas classic, she somehow managed to do the impossible. She made an original Christmas story that was honestly real, human and touching. The difficulty in making a book like this cannot be stressed enough. If you want proof you need only sit and wait for the holidays to roll around and for 500+ new Christmas stories to roll into bookstores and libraries, amusing briefly, lasting almost never. That’s where Robinson is different. Her book lasted and lasted and lasted and remains pretty much the top Christmas chapter book for kids out there outside of A Christmas Carol.
In The New York Times Parent’s Guide to the Best Books for Children, editor Eden Ross Lipson describes the book in this way: “What is the true meaning of Christms? When the ramshackle, chaotic, impossible Herdman children are cast in the annual Christmas pageant, some important lessons are learned all around the community. This could have been treacle, but it’s told so deftly it has become a classic. Good to read aloud.”
It pretty much as the best opening of any book out there too. Pay attention to the tone.
“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.
The toolhouse burned right down to the ground, and I think that surprised the Herdmans. They set fire to things all the time, but that was the first time they managed to burn down a whole building.
I guess it was an accident. I don’t suppose they woke up that morning and said to one another, ‘Let’s go burn down Fred Shoemaker’s toolhouse’ … but maybe they did. After all, it was a Saturday, and not much going on.”
God, if we could bottle writing like that . . .
As a child I know that on a personal level I identified strongly with the book’s nameless main character. I couldn’t tell you her name or what she looked like or even much of what she did. But the way she would stand back and try to avoid any and all trouble and confrontation with the Herdmans resonated.
I do find myself wondering, if this book were written today would the Herdmans still be allowed to smoke cigars? I know they didn’t in the
Hey, guys, Carl again. The holiday season is always fun for me. Lots of fun, lots of food, lots of cool lights, lots of food, favorite TV specials, lots of food...well, you get the idea. Speaking of holidays, cyber kid 303 has written about a terrific Christmas book:
"Don't Kill Santa!" is the best book ever!(except Bone by Jeff Smith). Set in the North Carolina mountains, these funny and also true stories about Donald Davis (the author) are great winter tales set in the 1940s. It is a collection of short stories. One time the boys' presents get repossessed. It is funny. Since it is nonfiction, the call number is J813.54.
That's where you'll find it in the library, guys. cyber kid
is right; Donald Davis is a very funny man. I've heard him tell his stories and they're great. The title story of the book Barking at a Fox Fur Coat
is very funny.
I'll tell you also about a couple of other great holiday books. One is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
by Barbara Robinson. Imagine what would happen if the Herdman kids, "the worst kids in the history of the world," the kids who steal deserts from your lunch, have a cat so mean that the postman won't deliver mail, and who all smoke cigars--even the girls!--imagine what would happen if they took over the annual Christmas pageant. Also imagine what would happen if you heard the Christmas story for the first time--as the Herdmans do. A fantastic story! And the library has a really good audiobook version
. And the Children's Theatre
is doing a bang-up job of this book. Go see it!
The other is Kringle
by Tony Abbot, the Secrets of Droon
man. It's an epic fantasy about Santa Claus. Yes, Santa Cluas
! I wasn't sure at first, but this one hooked me right away. Action, excitement, danger, really bad guys--this one has it all! See my review from last year here
On oter news, I told Ms. Yingling, that cool middle-school librarian, about Darth Bill burping the alphabet. Here's her response:
Huh. My best friend, who's a GIRL, could burp about five letters at a time when she was 13. She could also light matches with her teeth, which as a mom I can no longer recommend.I hope that your boys are inspired to read as well as burp. It sounds like your library is a lot of fun!
Yes, we are! This is not your grandfather's library. And we do have a lot of great guys out there who read. But you know what--this sounds like a challenge! Will we be outdone by a 13-year-old GIRL? Yeah, she could burp 5 letters at once, but it takes manly endurance to get through the whole thing! Come on, guys, let's show what we can do! Besides, we're giving prizes to any guy who will let us video him burping the alphabet or wieldng a light saber or reciting the Gettysburg Address. See the post of 12-16 or the sidebar to see what the prizes are. You have until the end of the month-just when you'll be out of school and looking for something to do! Call Zack at 704-416-5000 or Bill or me at 704-973-2720 to set up a time.
Well, the three of us will probably post something before the holidays start, but let us take this chance to say how much we enjoy this, how glad we are to bring you terrific books, and how great you are. We sincerely hope you
ENJOY THE SEASON!!