Oh those Herdman kids!
The drive everyone in town crazy, they do nasty things to kids in the schoolyard, they swear and cuss and smoke and take the Lords name in vain, and now they have done the unthinkable.
They have taken over the annual Christmas Pageant! Quite a predicament this is!
All of this is very quickly established, and played with, in the classic children’s story The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. This slim book, only eighty pages with illustrations, first came to life in the pages of McCall’s magazine before reaching its current version in 1971. And it was an instant success, spawning a play, television movie, and multiple sequels. Robinson herself passed away at eighty-five years of age just this past July, creating much remembrance and appreciation online.
All well earned.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever tells the humourous tale of a small town with a family of unruly, undisciplined kids called the Herdman’s residing therein. These bestial children, whom every kid in the schoolyard fears, do and say all sorts of horrible things, all the time. The one bastion of safety from these ruffians is the local church, that is until a boy – the little brother of the young girl narrator, falsely brags about all the free food available every sunday at the parrish.
This causes the whole clan of Herdman’s to come and take over the sunday school, just when they announce tryouts for the annual Christmas Pageant. The usual kids usually get the usual roles, but the Herdman children, now entranced by the Christmas story, bully their way into the production. This causes controversy, chaos, and carnage for the play, the church, and the town. The young girl narrator is an excellent guide to this craziness since her mother is the one who has had the pageant thrust upon her this year. After endless questions raised by the Herdman’s during rehearsals, the play barely limps into an actual show. With spectacular, fascinating, and touching results. And no, that is not a spoiler, the title alone and the theme kinda gives away the premise.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever works on many many levels. The constant questioning of the Nativity story by the Herdman’s raises legitimate issues, with equally legitimate answers, all used by Robinson to reaffirm the basic tenements of caring religious faith. Also the towns obvious dislike and dismissiveness of these children, and despite all their nasty vile meanness they are simply children, is disheartening. These are the very people the Bible tells them to go after and help, not hinder, and ignite in spirit, not ignore in life.
The ending, where the pageant happens and everything changes, brings forth not only transformations in the townsfolk, but also the Herdman’s. The last pages do go very heavy on the religious messaging, but that is to be expected here.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever still rings true with the feeling of love and hope and understanding that every faith holds at its center. It is a modern fable with real meaning.
…is currently resting from reading and enjoying Christmas with Googliebear.
P.S. This will be my last blog post before Christmas, and possibly the New Year. Thank you all for reading and enjoying Scoops Mental Propaganda and I will see you all in 2014. And, most important of all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Years!