Saturday, December 25, 2010

REVIEW: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever--Will you be in attendance?

Robinson, B.  (1972).  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  New York: HarperTrophy.

80 pages.

Appetizer:  The Herdmans are the worst kids in town.  They smoke cigars, cause trouble in their classes, lie steal and they burned down Mr. Shoemaker's toolhouse (which really worked for them, since they got to steal the police's doughnuts).

It's all Charlie's fault that they wound up involved in the Christmas Pageant though.  The six Herdman children attend church, for the first time ever, looking for extra snacks because of what Charlie said and they wound up auditioning for the pageant because they love movies.  The Herdmans intemidate (or take unwanted roles) and end up with all of the leads in the play.

The pageant may never be the same.

Yet another classic book I never managed to pick up when I was a kid.  (I also don't think I ever watched the made for TV movie.  Is that something I should try to hunt down on Netflix, FBDR?)  I actually don't think I'd ever heard of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  But one of my students reviewed it last quarter and it seemed fun enough that I wanted to pick it up for myself.  Little do my students know, I steal book ideas from them aaaaaall the time.  (Except I tell them that.  I'm horrible at keeping secrets.)

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is very fun.  It made me laugh several times and put me in the holiday spirit (which is what I was going for.  YAY!).  It's a fast read and would probably make a good pre-Christmas read aloud, for both kids who haven't heard the nativity story before and for those who are so familiar with it they have it memorized, zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I did have trouble turning off my teacher eyes as I was reading though.  The Herdmans' father abandoned them.  Their mother works two jobs (but turned down some welfare money because she'd rather work than spend time with her children).  The kids only pass their classes because the teachers don't want to deal with them for a second year (in which case, they'd also have a younger Herdman brother or sister to also deal with).  Reading all of that made me want to be the siblings' teacher (but possibly not all at once) and, I don't know, intimidate the shiz out of them or something.  No, probably a teacher would have to go a more mothering route...and be super vigilant so he or she wouldn't end up with a surprise clump of worms in his/her pockets or hair.  I'd try a number of different tactics....

You see what I mean!  I couldn't turn off the teacher perspective and just enjoy the book.  But it all ended up being okay, because those kids were super-curious about the story of Jesus, and helped their classmates and town to see the story in a new light.

As I was reading, there was some dated language and some dated gender roles, but I was very interested in the narrator.  Robinson uses an unnamed narrator to tell the story.  It reminded me of The Great Gatsby, in that both have a secondary character sharing the story.

Also, it was particularly fun reading this after having read about this experience with the nativity play over at Hyperbole and a Half.  Enjoy!

Dinner Conversation:

"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 toohouse.
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" (p. 1).

"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 had 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 had hydrangea bushes, the Herdmans had poison ivy" (p. 4).

"Mother didn't expect to have anything to do with the Christmas pageant except to make me and my little brother Charlie be in it (we didn't want to) and to make my father go and see it (he didn't want to).
Every year he said the same thing--"I've seen the Christmas pageant."
"You haven't seen this year's Christmas pageant," Mother would tell him.  "Charlie is a shepherd this year."
"Charlie was a shepherd last year. go on and go.  I'm just going to put on my bathrobe and sit by the fire and relax.  There's never anything different about the Christmas pageant."
"There's something different this year," Mother said.
"Charlie is wearing your bathrobe" (pp. 15-16).

Tasty Rating:  !!!

Just in case you were wondering, I totally scheduled this post in advance.  In the real world, I'm probably playing with new toys.  Or maybe still unwrapping gifties.  Or possibly still asleep.  Any of the three would be good.

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