Buckle up for a wild ride involving a missing gerbil, a crazy cat, and a tattooed baby that will have readers of all ages laughing!

This hilarious novel stars the Herdmans, the worst kids in the world, who made their first appearance in author Barbara Robinson"s classic The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

You are watching: The best school year ever movie

In The Best School Year Ever, Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman haven’t changed a bit. They still set things on fire and knock the other kids black and blue.

One day the teachers ask all the students to think of compliments for their classmates, and Beth Bradley picks Imogene Herdman’s name. At first, Beth can’t think of anything good, but soon she begins to see Imogene in a new light.

Maybe behind all of the outrageous pranks, there is something good about the Herdmans?

Feb 15, 2011

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About the author


Barbara Robinson

Barbara Robinson has written several popular books for children, including My Brother Louis Measures Worms, The Best School Year Ever, The Best Halloween Ever, and the enormously popular bestselling novel The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, first published in 1972, which was made into a classic TV movie and on which this book was based. The play The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is produced annually in theaters, schools, and churches all over the world. Ms. Robinson has two daughters and three grandchildren.

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The Best School Year Ever - Barbara Robinson



When we studied the Old West, everybody had to do a special report on A Cowboy’s Life or Famous Indian Chiefs or Notorious Outlaw Families like the James brothers. Boomer Malone picked the James brothers, but then he couldn’t find them in the children’s encyclopedia.

That’s all right, Boomer, Miss Kemp said. It doesn’t have to be the James brothers. Pick another outlaw family.

So Boomer did. He picked the Herdmans.

Of course, the Herdmans weren’t in the Old West, and they weren’t in the children’s encyclopedia either. They were right there in the Woodrow Wilson School, all six of them spread out, one to a class, because the only teacher who could put up with two of them at once would have to be a Miss King Kong. My father said he bet that was in the teachers’ contracts along with sick leave and medical benefits: only one Herdman at a time.

Boomer’s paper was the best one, three whole pages of one crime after another. He should have gotten A plus, but Miss Kemp made him do the whole paper over.

I’m ashamed of you, Boomer, she said, calling your own schoolmates an outlaw family.

The Herdmans didn’t care. They knew they were outlaws. So did Miss Kemp, but I guess she had to pretend they were like everybody else.

They weren’t, and if they had been around in the Old West, they would have burned it all down or blown it all up and we wouldn’t have to study about it.

Plus, of course, we wouldn’t have to live with Herdmans every day, in school and out. . . .

Chapter 1

Unless you’re somebody like Huckle-berry Finn, the first day of school isn’t too bad. Most kids, by then, are bored with summer and itchy from mosquito bites and poison ivy and nothing to do. Your sneakers are all worn out and you can’t get new ones till school starts and your mother is sick and tired of yelling at you to pick things up and you’re sick and tired of picking the same things up.

Plus, the first day of school is only half a day for kids.

My little brother, Charlie, once asked my mother what the teachers do for the rest of the day.

They get things ready—books and papers and lessons.

That’s not what Leroy Herdman says, Charlie told her. Leroy says as soon as the kids are gone, they lock all the doors and order in pizza and beer.

Well, they don’t, Mother said, and how would Leroy know anyway?

He forgot something, Charlie said, and he went back to get it and he couldn’t get in.

They saw him coming and locked the doors, Mother said. Wouldn’t you?

Well, yes. Anyone would, because the Herdmans—Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys—were the worst kids in the history of the world. They weren’t honest or cheerful or industrious or cooperative or clean. They told lies and smoked cigars and set fire to things and hit little kids and cursed and stayed away from school whenever they wanted to and wouldn’t learn anything when they were there.

They were always there, though, on the first day, so you always knew right away that this was going to be another exciting Herdman year in the Woodrow Wilson Elementary School.

At least there was only one of them in each grade, and since they never got kept back, you always had the same one to put up with. I had Imogene, and what I did was stay out of her way, but it wasn’t easy.

This time she grabbed me in the hall and shoved an oatmeal box in my face. Hey, she said, you want to buy a science project?

I figured that Imogene’s idea of a science project would probably explode or catch fire or smell really bad or be alive and bite me— and, in fact, I could hear something squealing and scratching around in the oatmeal box.

Miss Kemp already wrote this year’s assignment on the board, I said, and it isn’t a science project.

Fine time to tell me, Imogene grunted. What is it? The assignment. She shook her oatmeal box. Is it mice?

So I was half right—Imogene’s science project was alive, but it probably wouldn’t bite me unless it was great big mice, and I didn’t want to find out.

No, I said, it’s about people.

Mice would be better, Imogene said.

Later that morning Miss Kemp explained her assignment, and I thought Imogene might be right, because the assignment sounded weird.

For this year’s project, she said, we’re going to study each other. That’s the assignment on the blackboard, Compliments for Classmates.

All over the room hands were going up and kids were saying Huh? and What does it mean? and How many pages? But Miss Kemp ignored all this.

It means exactly what it says, she said. You’re to think of a special compliment for each person in this class, and please don’t groan—a lot of people did anyway— "because this is the assignment for the year. You have all year to think about it, and next June, before the last day of school, you’ll draw names from a hat and think of more compliments for just that one person."

Somebody asked if it could be a famous person instead, and somebody else asked if it could be a dead famous person, like George Washington.

Miss Kemp said no. This is a classroom project, so it has to be people in this class. We know all about George Washington’s good points, yet . . . She looked around and picked on Boomer. "We don’t know all Boomer’s good points. More important, Boomer probably doesn’t know all his good points."

How many compliments? Junior Jacobs wanted to know.

Up to you, Miss Kemp said.

Alice Wendleken raised her hand. Would beautiful hair and shiny hair count as one compliment?

This sounded to me as if Alice planned to compliment herself, which would save someone else the trouble, but Miss Kemp said, I’m not talking about beautiful hair and nice teeth, Alice. I mean characteristics, personal qualities, something special.

This could be hard, I thought. Take Albert Pelfrey. When you think of Albert Pelfrey, you think fat. Even Albert thinks fat. It’s hard to think anything else, so I would really have to study Albert to find some special personal quality that wasn’t just about being fat. And besides Albert there were twenty-eight other people, including Imogene Herdman.

What’s a compliment? Imogene asked me.

It’s something nice you tell someone, like if someone is especially helpful or especially friendly.

Alice looked Imogene up and down. Or especially clean, she said.

Okay. Imogene frowned. But mice would still be better.

Mice would probably be easier for Imogene because the Herdmans always had animals around. As far as I know they weren’t mean to the animals, but the animals they weren’t mean to were mean all by themselves, like their cat, which was crazy and had to be kept on