As KEM’s Christmas gift to you, we recommend The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a seasonal classic you’re sure to love.

BestChristmasPageantEver6Chapter Book Fiction
Text copyright © 1972
Barbara Robinson
Picture copyright © 1972
Judith Gwyn Brown
Published by HarperCollins


ALA Notable Children’s Book
Georgia Children’s Book Award
Indiana’s Young Hoosier Book Award
Minnesota’s Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award
2012 School Library Journal’s Top Hundred Children’s Novels
Library of Congress Children’s Books


Barbara Robinson’s first person story about misfits is outrageously funny. Like all true comedies, that which is tragic is conversely Herdmanlarious. Robinson’s narration accomplishes this edge through the voice of the innocent, yet watchful protagonist’s narration. The unbiased account of the Herdman’s understanding of the birth of Jesus is sweet and provoking. Ask yourself, would you want a bullying Herdman in your classroom? Like Jesus, the narrator embraces the scarcely lovable and interjects wisdom upon her fellow peers’ and parisioners’ judgmental ways. Afterall… isn’t that the point of Christmas, to open our hearts, unto ALL?

Favorite line
But as far as I’m concerned, Mary is always going to look a lot like Imogene Herdman–sort of nervous and bewildered, but ready to clobber anyone who laid a hand on her baby.

KEM Sapphire
Second only to the Bible, this was the most-read Christmas story in my house growing up. My dad still can’t read it aloud without stopping to gasp for air. Barbara Robinson brilliantly captures the politics of the everybody-knows-everybody small town, and the chaos of the annual Christmas pageant in a small town church. Her characters remind you of your neighbors and the kids you grew up with, her dialogue pokes fun at annual Christmas traditions and expectations, and her Herdmans show us what it must be like to hear the Christmas story for the very first time. Ralph, Imogine, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys ask the questions that those of us who grew up in church often fail to ask, and the result is a very sincere and poignant version of the nativity, black eyes and all.

Favorite line
“…Joseph and Mary, his espoused wife, being great with child…”

“Pregnant!” yelled Ralph Herdman.

Well. That stirred things up.

KEM Diamond
This story brought me from stomach-buckling laughter to pillow-hugging tears. Barbara Robinson shared the true meaning of Christmas without proselytizing or gushing. Through subtle humor from the curious introspection of the young narrator, most of this story touches your heart between the lines. It’s tragic, because many of us know the Herdman’s—that family of practically-orphans lost between the cracks of society. Yet, it’s magic, because Robinson showed us how a rag-tag troop of clueless outcasts can teach an entire community about acceptance, growth, and wonderment. And Robinson accomplished this without adding one iota of pity or condescension.

Favorite line
Mrs. Wendleken didn’t even want cats to have kittens or birds to lay eggs, and she wouldn’t let Alice play with anybody who had two rabbits. 


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