A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Leonard Weisgard (1916â€“2000), The Little Island, The Important Book, and The Night Before Christmas.
- Mary Todd Lincoln (1818â€“1882), First Lady of the United States during her husband Abrahamâ€™s presidency, was born on this day. Read An Unlikely Friendship: A Novel of Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckley by Ann Rinaldi, and Lincolns: a Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary by Candace Fleming.
- Happy birthday to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, published in 1843.
- Itâ€™s National Cocoa Day. Curl up with a hot mug of the chocolaty drink and read Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa by Erica Silverman, illustrated by Betsy Lewin.
Around this time of year, many families, some who do not even regularly attend church, find themselves in one, supporting the local Christmas Pageant. This event, acted out in communities across America, allows children to play starring roles in the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Sometimes even local animals make debut appearances in the annual event. Before you observe this ritual, you might want to pick up Barbara Robinsonâ€™s incredibly funny The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Narrated by a young girl whose mother is brought in at last minute to direct the local pageant, the book introduces one of the most wicked cast of characters in a book celebrating the Christmas season, the Herdmans. They are â€śabsolutely the worst kids in the history of the world;â€ť they smoke cigars (even the girls) and burn down property; they torment classmates and terrorize the community.
One day, on a tip that food can be found in church, the entire Herdman family shows upâ€”just in time to volunteer for all the main parts in the local Christmas pageant. Consequently, the children who normally play these roles get shifted to the sidelines. Then chaos erupts.
The Herdmans have never heard the Christmas story, and when they begin to comprehend itâ€”how badly Mary and her poor baby were treated so many years agoâ€”they bring a whole new level of emotion to the event. Fortunately, they donâ€™t leave the stage to go off and kill Herodâ€”although that is their first response. But what they deliver is an unusual, although authentic, rendition of the Christmas story. The narrator closes the story saying, â€śas far as Iâ€™m concerned, Mary is always going to look a lot like Imogene Herdmanâ€”sort of nervous and bewildered, but ready to clobber anyone who laid a hand on her baby.â€ť
One of the tasks of great childrenâ€™s book writers is to show characters changing in a believable way over the course of the narrative. Few have ever done this as well as Barbara Robinson as she brings the Herdmans on their journey of transformationâ€”one that extends to everyone else in the community as well. The book depicts how a child who has never heard the Christmas story might experience it for the first time. Yet, all eighty pages remain laugh-out-loud funny.
Made into a classic TV movie, the book remains one of the greatest Christmas books ever written. Like the narrator of the story, I find myself thinking of the events of Christmas in an entirely different way each time I read the book. It makes me wish that my local Christmas pageant would forgo the sheep brought in for the eventâ€”and import the Herdmans!
Hereâ€™s a passage from The Best Christmas Pageant Ever:
They got there ten minutes late, sliding into the room like a bunch of outlaws about to shoot up a saloon. When Leroy passed Charlie he knuckled him behind the ear, and one little primary girl yelled as Gladys went by. But Mother had said she was going to ignore everything except blood, and since the primary kid wasnâ€™t bleeding, and neither was Charlie, nothing happened.
Mother said, â€śAnd hereâ€™s the Herdman family. Weâ€™re glad to see you all,â€ť which was probably the biggest lie ever said right out loud in the church.
Originally posted December 13, 2010. Updated for .