Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

Melissa Sweet
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 7 to 10
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011   ISBN: 978-0547199450

When Tony Sarg was still a little boy, he discovered that he loved to figure out “how to make things move.” He also decided at an early age that he wanted to become “a marionette man” when he grew up, which is exactly what he did. His marionette creations performed on Broadway in New York City, and when the people at Macys, “the biggest store on earth,” heard about Tony Sarg’s marionettes, they asked him to make a “puppet parade” for the store’s windows.

Tony’s windows were so popular, that the people at Macy’s hired Tony to help them put together a special parade for the Macy’s employees. The idea was to have a parade that would make the immigrants who worked at Macy’s feel less homesick for the celebrations that they were used to. On Thanksgiving Day in 1924, hundreds of Macy’s employees walked through the streets of New York City accompanied by animals from the zoo. The parade was such a success that it was decided that it would be an annual event.

Every year the parade grew in size, and then the people at Macy’s decided that having lions and tigers and other scary animals in the parade was not working. They asked Tony to “replace the animals,” which he did with large animal-shaped balloons that were held up with sticks. The puppet-like balloons were a huge success, but they were not big enough. Only people close to the parade route could see the animals. The only solution was to make the balloons bigger, and to control them from the ground up.

Every year, millions of people watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade either in person in New York City, or on the television from the comfort of their homes. This picture book tells the story of how the parade came to have its enormous floating balloons, and how one man’s genius came to have a long-lasting effect on the use puppets of in popular entertainment. Using toys that she made herself, collage artwork, and clips from period newspapers and other publications, Melissa Sweet not only tells a fascinating story, but she also gives readers a singular visual experience.

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