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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (picture book edition)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (picture book edition)

4.2 4
by Barbara Robinson, Laura Cornell

“Hey! Unto you a child is born!”

Meet the Herdmans—they lie, cheat, and love to give clonks on the head. They are, without a doubt, the worst kids in the history of the world. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the


“Hey! Unto you a child is born!”

Meet the Herdmans—they lie, cheat, and love to give clonks on the head. They are, without a doubt, the worst kids in the history of the world. So no one is prepared when this outlaw family invades church one Sunday and decides to take over the annual Christmas pageant.

None of the Herdmans has ever heard the Christmas story before. Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus—it’s all news to them. So they’re convinced that the Wise Men should bring pizza and that the Angel of the Lord is straight out of a comic book. Everyone worries that this year’s pageant will be horrible (just like the Herdmans!), but they are sure to make it the most unusual anyone has seen and, just possibly, the best one ever.

Adapted from the beloved novel of the same name, this sparkling picture-book version is perfect for younger children. They will delight in the antics of the terrible Herdmans, who surprise everyone when they capture the true meaning of Christmas.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The “worst kids in the history of the world” are laugh-out-loud outrageous in this rollicking picture-book adaptation of Robinson’s 1972 novel. Cornell’s (My Mommy Hung the Moon) humorous, energetic illustrations highlight the incorrigible Herdman siblings’ naughtiness, as they’re pictured acting out well beyond the shenanigans chronicled in the punchy text. At Sunday school, they “stole all the money out of the collection plate,” and the fact that they don’t know the Nativity story “didn’t stop them from picking out the best parts for themselves.” As in the original version, they steal the show, providing a satisfying primer for kids not yet ready for Robinson’s longer holiday treat. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Claudia Mills
Barbara Robinson's short novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is one of the best, and best-loved, Christmas stories ever written; 2012 will mark the triumphant fortieth anniversary of its publication. Here Robinson collaborates with illustrator Laura Cornell to offer a picture book edition of her classic story of how the Herdmans—"the worst kids in the history of the world"—take over the church's annual Christmas pageant, seizing all roles for themselves, e.g., with loud, bossy Imogene grabbing the role of Mary, and Gladys (who "liked to smack things") casting herself as a smart-mouthed Angel of the Lord. But, far from ruining the community's usually staid and predictable Nativity reenactment, the Herdmans' previous ignorance of Luke's story helps the audience to hear it anew, as well. When Gladys hollers, "Hey! Unto you a child is born!" she makes it "sound like it was the best news in the world." This new edition of the holiday classic is good news, too, although it is not in any way a substitute for the original novella, which has so much more space to develop the Herdmans' initial badness and so gives that much more punch and poignancy to their ultimate reaction to the birth of the holy baby in the stable. But it is lovely to have a shorter version for bedtime reading or for use in a Christmas-season worship service. Cornell's sprawling, scribbly, out-of-control pictures wonderfully mirror the chaos wrought by the Herdmans as they unwittingly create the "best Christmas pageant ever." Reviewer: Claudia Mills, Ph.D.
Kirkus Reviews

The beloved novel about the ultimate church Christmas pageant is abridged for a younger audience or shorter holiday storytimes, with charming watercolor illustrations that bring the crowd of Herdmans to life.

Robinson's classic tale, first published in 1972, relates the story of the six ill-behaved Herdman children, who suddenly begin attending Sunday school at their neighborhood church. They take over all the major roles in the Christmas pageant, causing lots of humorous mischief along the way. The unusual pageant is ultimately a great success, with heartfelt performances by the Herdman kids, who bring their holiday ham to the manger as their offering. This truncated version cuts the longer story down to just the basic plot elements, without the hilarious hijinks of the Herdmans and with some loss of the subtle underlying theme conveyed in the full-length novel. However, the story is often performed as a play during the holiday season, and this shorter version will serve well as an introduction to children prior to a performance or as a read-aloud for the family gathered around the Christmas tree. Cornell's distinctive, loose watercolors add humorous details.

The full-length novel better conveys the complex narrative, but this picture-book version makes the basic story easily accessible to all. Final art not seen.(Picture book. 4-9)

The six Herdman children are the meanest, toughest kids in town. So what happens when they take over the church's annual Christmas pageant? They experience the Christmas story for the first time and help everyone else rediscover its true meaning. Celebrate the spirit of the season with this funny, memorable, outrageous tale that's been a favorite of young readers since 1972 -- and continues to be one of the best Christmas stories ever.
Boston Globe
[The book] had me laughing so hard I could hardly read. Don't miss this hilarious and touching book.
Denver Post
The book is outrageous, lively, funny and wonderful. The Christmas story takes on a strangely moving depth of meaning and shines through with a new brilliance.
Pamela Paul
The frantic, comedic drawings by Cornell…suit this tale of holiday misbehavior and unanticipated generosity, which she amplifies in scribbly, animated style.
—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.20(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.30(d)
AD760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

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.

It was a terrific fire-two engines and two police cars and all the volunteer firemen and five dozen doughnuts sent up from the Tasti-Lunch Diner. The doughnuts were supposed to be for the firemen, but by the time they got the fire out the doughnuts were all gone. The I Herdmans got them -- what they couldn't eat they stuffed in their pockets and down the front of their shirts. You could actually see the doughnuts all around Ollie Herdman's middle.

I couldn't understand why the Herdmans were hanging around the scene of their crime. Everybody knew the whole thing was their fault, and you'd think they'd have the brains to get out of sight.

One fireman even collared Claude I Herdman and said, "Did you kids start this fire, smoking cigars in that toolhouse?"

But Claude lust said, "We weren't smoking cigars.

And they weren't. They were playing with Leroy Herdman's "Young Einstein" chemistry set, which liestole from the hardware store, and that was how they started the fire.

Leroy said so. "We mixed all the little powders together," he said, "and poured lighter fluid around on them and set fire to the lighter fluid. We wanted to see if the chemistry set was any good."

Any other kid -- even a mean kid-would have been a little bit worried if he stole $4.95 worth of something and then burned down a building with it. But Leroy was lust mad because the chemistry set got burned up along with everything else before he had a chance to make one or two bombs.

The fire chief got us all together -- there were fifteen or twenty kids standing around watching the fire -- and gave us a little talk about playing with matches and gasoline and dangerous things like that.

"I don't say that's what happened here," he told us. "I don't know what happened here, but tbat could have been it, and you see the result. So let this be a good lesson to you, boys and girls."

Of course it was a great lesson to tbe Herdmans -- they learned that wherever there's a fire there will be free doughnuts sooner or later.

I guess things would have been different if they'd burned down, say, the Second Presbyterian Church instead of the toolhouse, but the toolbouse was about to fall down anyway. All the neighbors had pestered Mr. Shoemaker to do something about it because it looked so awful and was sure to bring rats. So everybody said the fire was a blessing in disguise, and even Mr. Shoemaker said it was a relief. My father said it was the only good thing the Herdmans ever did, and if they'd known it was a good thing, they wouldn't have done it at all. They would have set fire to something else . . . or somebody.

They were just so all-around awful you could hardly believe they were real: Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys -- six skinny, stringy-haired kids all alike except for being different sizes and having different black-and-blue places where they bad clonked each other.

They lived over a garage at the bottom of Sproul Hill. Nobody used the garage anymore, but the Herdmans used to bang the door up and down just as fast as they could and try to squash one another-that was their idea of a game. Where other people had grass in their front yard, the Herdmans had rocks. And where other people bad hydrangea bushes, the Herdmans bad poison ivy.

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 tall and one missing eye, and the mailman wouldn't deliver anything to the Herdmans because of it.

"I don't think it's a regular cat at all," the mailman told my father. I think those kids went up in the hills and caught themselves a bobcat."

"Oh, I don't think you can tame a wild bobcat," my father said.

"I'm sure you can't," said the mailman. "They'd never try to tame it; they'd just try to make it wilder than it was to begin with."

If that was their plan, it worked -- the cat would attack anything it could see out of its one eye.

One day Claude Herdman emptied the whole first grade in three minutes flat when lie took the cat to Show-and-Tell. He didn't feed it for two days so it was already mad, and then be carried it to school in a box, and when be opened the box the cat shot out-right straight up in the air, people said.

It came down on the top blackboard ledge and clawed four big long scratches all the way down the blackboard. Then it just tore around all over the place, scratching little kids and shedding fur and scattering books and papers everywhere.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Copyright © by Barbara Robinson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Barbara Robinson has written several popular books for children, including My Brother Louis Measures Worms, The Best School Year Ever, The Best Halloween Ever, and the enormously popular bestselling novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, first published in 1972, which was made into a classic TV movie and on which this book was based. The play The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is produced annually in theaters, schools, and churches all over the world. Ms. Robinson has two daughters and three grandchildren.

Laura Cornell lives in New York City with her daughter, Lily (first and only), but they spend much time in California, Laura's first state in her first home. She was asked to illustrate Jamie's first book, and that became ten. Lucky is the first word that comes to mind.

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever picture book edition) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a treasure for both adults and children. Relays the true spirit of Christmas through the simple actions of a family of neglected, unruly children. Although the pageant is far from standard, these children truly bring forth the meaning of what happened that night many years ago. It is indeed a treat to meet the Herdmans - Ralph -10; Imogene - 9; Leroy -8; Claude - 7; Ollie - 6; and Gladys - 5. You will experience many laughs and a few tears. The artwork really makes the book. Laura Cornell does a splendid job! We bought two copies - one for my husband and myself and one for our two grandchildren - 7 & 6. It will be a favorite for many years to come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was recommended by my daughter who called laughing as she read it. I laughed all the way til the end! The author had one of those magic pens that captures characters beautifully. I highly recommend this book for anyone who would suggest "burping" a baby before it is put to bed or enjoys children or loves Christmas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This author combines humor and warmth in a tale about the true spirit of Christmas. Couldn't stop laughing in some places, and almost cried in others! Great book for Christmas.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just didn't love it.