Balloons Over Broadway takes me back to those days. This amazing picture book tells the story of how Tony Sarg, a puppeteer, came to invent the gigantic balloons that are the hallmark of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Like many icons, the balloons just always seemed to exist, so kudos to Melissa Sweet for unearthing how they developed from blimp-like rubber balloons carried on wooden sticks to the soaring helium-filled wonders of today.
Melissa Sweet, a Caldecott Honor winner, obviously threw herself into this book. The artwork, a combination of watercolor illustrations and collages made from found objects, fabrics, and handmade puppets, exude the creativity and love of play that Sarg devoted his life to. In an authors note, Sweet tells us that she "played with all sorts of materials, not knowing exactly what the outcome would be." The end result shows that it was time well spent.
The book concludes with additional info about Tony Sarg, as well as a bibliography. The back end papers feature a 1933 advertisement from the New York Times, touting the upcoming parade. Among the "helium filled monsters" is one I would give anything to see: "The Colicky Kid: Listen to him squall!! He's mad. He's bad. He yowls bloody murder!"
And head on over to Sweet's website to view her Balloons Over Broadway activity kit. It has fun templates of puppets for kids (or anybody) to make.
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin, 40 pages
Published: November 2011