• The Bossy Bookworm

Review of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Robinson's 1971 classic for young readers is a wonderful read-aloud during the Christmas season.

"Hey! Unto you a child is born!"

We read aloud Barbara Robinson's 1971 holiday classic every Christmas season around here, and I love it every single time. There are some old-fashioned elements, but for me, the big heart of this story outweighs the outdated aspects.

The trouble-making Herdmans (they're known for shoplifting, brutalizing and intimidating classmates and teachers, smoking cigars, and drinking jug wine, among other things) appear on the scene of the Sunday School Christmas pageant because it's rumored that refreshments are served there.

Their participation in the pageant causes an uproar in the staid, traditional production and in the community that expects the same version year after year.

But the Herdmans' lack of context for the Christmas story means they ask probing questions. Where is the King Herod character, and does he (fingers crossed) die a grisly death at the end? Why does someone besides Mary get to name Jesus, and why wasn't his name something reasonable like Bill? And why would a baby want gifts of oil and gold--wouldn't a ham be better and more useful?

The Herdmans' challenges to the story and the traditional pageant roles--as well as to the community's expectations--bring out heartwarming truths and unexpected reflections.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

We saw our local children's theatre production of this story a few years ago, and it was a true joy watching an actress play the role of tough, questioning Imogene Herdman as she plays gruff, protective new mother Mary. Gladys Herdman's shouted "Hey! Unto you a child is born!" is a favorite moment in the story.