Saturday, October 4, 2008
Book Report/The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
by Barbara Robinson
unabridged audio read by C.J. Critt
juvenile fiction, 1972
"By jove, I think she's got it."
My Fair Lady
I've never understood it. I just haven't been able to fathom why people raved about The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I remember reading a few words, and thinking, no thank you. I don't want to read about a bunch of mean kids. Such a fool, I was. This may be the most "spiritual" Christmas story I've ever read.
The six Herdman children are the bane of teachers and fellow classmates alike. They have had little education because teachers pass them on to the next grade so they won't have two Herdmans in the same class. The other kids all fear them. They steal, they fight, they smoke. The adult reader, and perhaps the shrewd younger one, will read between the lines. Mr. Herdman got on a train and never came back. Mrs. Herdman is barely mentioned. These kids are on their own, raising themselves.
Lured by the prospect of free food, these hungry children show up at Sunday School, and promptly volunteer for all the star roles in the annual Christmas pageant. They get those choice parts because no one else dares to raise their hands. The Herdmans have never gone to church, and though they've heard of God, they don't know the Christmas story. When the director reads it, they butt in, they ask questions, they become involved. How dare an innkeeper send a pregnant woman to a barn! Why bring oils to a baby? They hear it and respond to it in a fresh way. Imogene Herdman, as Mary, burps the baby Jesus doll. Gladys Herdman, the Angel of the Lord says, "Hey! Unto you a Child is born."
Because The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is told through the eyes of the pageant director's daughter, the story unfolds with simplicity; just the way a child would see it. The moral, the truth emerges to the reader just as it does to the child. We all learn in a way that is not a lesson or a sermon. Absolutely fantastic! I'm sure most of you have read it, but if like me, you didn't think you'd like it, please do give it a try this Christmas season. It may change the way you look at the Christmas story, and at the world (and children) around you.
My own little Angel of the Lord (far right) and shepherd (far left) - 1990
(note that Wise Man in red!)