A Fresh Look at the Christmas Story: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

“Just suppose you had never heard the Christmas story, and didn’t know anything about it, and then somebody told it to you. What would you think?”


Before I talk about the book, let me just clarify something. I know that Jesus was not actually born on December 25, and possibly not even in the month of December. However, the birth of Jesus Christ is not only an historical fact, but arguably the most important event to ever occur in history (besides His crucifixion and resurrection). If people consider the births of other men, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, worthy of recognition (not to mention our own individual birthdays), then it is reasonable to choose a date to commemorate the birth of Christ. And yes, I am also aware that some of the traditions associated with Christmas, like the Christmas tree, have their origins in pagan practices. I see nothing wrong with borrowing practices from other traditions and assigning new meaning to them. So when I refer to the Christmas story, as this book does, I am talking about the birth of Christ as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a hilarious but touching little story about a family of “hoodlums” that hijacks a Sunday School Christmas program.  Now I don’t mean just naughty, disobedient children who don’t listen. I’m talking about six loud, dirty, cigar-smoking, foul-talking, fire-setting vandals – or to put it in the words of the young narrator – the “absolutely worst kids in the history of the world.” All the other kids (and their parents) in the neighborhood  do whatever they can to avoid the Herdmans, so when they show up one Sunday at church looking for free food, no one quite knows what to do. And when they start volunteering to take the major roles in the annual Christmas pageant, everyone is sure the result will be nothing less than a disaster. Continue reading “A Fresh Look at the Christmas Story: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”

The Quaker Boy who became a Royal Painter: Benjamin West

Benjamin West and His Cat Grimalkin
by Marguerite Henry

This is a charming book about the real Quaker boy who became the royal painter to King George III. The story is set in mid-18th century in Pennsylvania. At this time, Quakers believed art to be worldly and vain. While Benjamin secretly practices his drawing skills, he is aided by local Indians who teach him how to make colors out of things found in nature. Benjamin also shows his resourcefulness and determination when he “borrows” fur from his cat’s tail to make paintbrushes. Benjamin respectfully works to persuade his parents and church to recognize his talent and to permit him to receive art training. Benjamin West became a famous and influential painter as a result and is known as The Father of American Painting. After reading this story, my kids were excited when we visited the Huntington Library in Pasadena and saw a couple of West’s paintings hanging in the art gallery. The story of Benjamin West encourages children to be persistent in developing their talents and not to give up on something if they truly have a passion for doing it. The story also lends itself to supplemental lessons or research about the Quakers, William Penn, and West’s art. Kids and adults of all ages will love this book!