As a kid, this was my most favoritist of all favorite Christmas books--right up there with the Scratch-N-Sniff Cookie Book. THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER is to holiday literature what A Christmas Story is to film, and I have to admit I was a bit nervous to reread it this year, after so many long years away: what if it was only a silly kid's book--the kind that, when returned to in adulthood, is dull and overly simple, that leaves the now-grown reader wondering what, exactly, was the original appeal?
I am happy to report that that was not the case. PAGEANT was as cute and funny and touching as ever, and I mean that in a good way: any book or movie with the word "touching" on the cover is usually right out, as far as I'm concerned, but in this case "touching" is somehow not bad, or cheesy, or revolting. Let me explain.
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 Lord's name in vain and so the book begins. But when the Herdmans, through a series of events involving arson, doughnuts and a mad cat, get involved in the annual Christmas pageant, the stubborn little congregation, the narrator and her family and all the terrible Herdman kids get a new look at Christmas, because the Herdmans have never heard the Christmas story, and their questions and interpretations of the birth of Jesus shake up the church's predictable pageant and give everybody a peek at how things really might have happened.
Downright heart-warming, actually. I have to admit I got a little teary-eyed, which made my husband laugh, because I was trying to read the story out loud to him. Seriously, though--it's only eighty pages long. You could read it in an hour.