I think I first encountered Barbara Robinson’s The Best Christmas Pageant Ever when a teacher read it to our class. I’m not sure exactly which grade I was in when this happened, but I do remember I found the story of the Herdman clan invading the annual Christmas pageant a lot of fun.
I think I checked this book out of the library at least a hundred times growing up. Of course, it got very popular during the Christmas season, so I’d get in my seasonal reading of the book in early to late November each year.
The Herdman family comes from the wrong side of the town. They’re dirty, rude and have a terrible reputation. Somehow the Herdman family catches wind of the annual Christmas pageant and shows up for tryouts, bullying their way into some of the prime roles in the play. As rehearsals unfold, the Herdman family proves to be disruptive, leading up to a funny performance.
There are so many highlights to the book, which runs less than a hundred pages. The gifts the Herdmans bring to the baby Jesus as well as an interesting reading of the angel’s line announcing His birth are particular favorites.
The novel was adapted for television with Loretta Switt starring. I saw it years ago and (of course) it wasn’t nearly as much fun as the book. I think part of it was that the screen version couldn’t live up to the images created of the Herdmans and the story in my mind. Another part could have been that it only ran an hour, which I’m not sure was long enough to really do the story justice.
Using the power of Google, I see that the story has been adapted for the stage. I’d love to see a stage production of this at some point.
I also know that a few years ago, I was browsing the library and found that there were two sequels to the book published. One centered on Halloween and the other was just a general one. Neither one quite lived up to the greatness of the original.