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

Book Information

Illustrator
Publisher
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children; First Edition, (November 1, 2011)

"With a marionette, the controls are above and the puppet  hangs down... But what if the controls were below and the puppet could rise  up?"

"There's a holdup in the Bronx, Brooklyn's broken out in fights; There's a traffic jam in Harlem That's backed up to Jackson Heights; There's a scout troop short a child, Krushchev's due at Idlewild! Car 54, Where Are You?"

It was in 1961 that television coverage of the Macy's  Thanksgiving Day Parade expanded from one hour to two. I was six in '61 and  watched the parade on TV at my grandparents' house in Garden City. It was the  year that the Bullwinkle J. Moose balloon made its debut, and the celebrities  participating in the parade included the stars (and car) of Car 54, Where Are  You? as well as Casey Stengel, manager of the new team in town, the New York  Mets.

I had no idea before reading Melissa Sweet's amazing picture  book history of the Macy's Parade-slash-biography of puppeteer Tony Sarg, that  the parade's history goes all the way back to the Roaring Twenties when my  parents were being born.

"Many of the people working at Macy's were immigrants, and as  the holidays approached, they missed their own holiday traditions of music and  dancing in the streets."

Immigrant Tony Sarg was already a renowned puppeteer  performing on Broadway when Macy's hired him to develop moving puppets for their  holiday windows. The company then had him help organize a parade in 1924. Their  first parades featured real animals along with the floats. And when the company  asked Tony to replace the real animals (which could scare young spectators), it took a few years and a few great ideas, but they ended up with the helium-filled  balloon characters that we all know and love.

Melissa Sweet's illustrations include gouache as well as mixed  media collages which, in turn, include puppets and toys she made herself while creating the book. Filled with movement, bright colors, and smiles on giant balloon figures, the excitement dances off the page.

I love how Ms. Sweet incorporates some fascinating challenges  Tony Sarg faced in bringing his ideas to life, such as how one would create  these giant puppets and whether the balloon creatures would fit under the  elevated train tracks (which, back then, existed along the parade route). One of  the coolest facts in the book is found all the way at the end, in the Author's Note:

"But Tony could not have accomplished all he did without his talented apprentices, some of whom went on to their own fame. One of his  apprentices, Bill Baird, later created the puppets for the 'Lonely Goatherd'  marionette show featured in the movie The Sound of Music. (And one of  Baird's apprentice's was Jim Henson, who invented the Muppets.)"

BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY is a creative, joyful, and informative  story about the origins of one of the most quintessential of American holiday traditions.

40 pages

ISBN:  978-0547199450

Reviewed by:  Richie Partington, Librarian, California, USA

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If you had to get up to feed the chickens every morning at 6:30am, how happy would you be? A young boy named Tony Sarg (rhymes with aargh) figured out a way to feed those chickens without even getting out of bed. Now fast forward. Everyone loves the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with its enormous balloons floating magically down the avenues of New York City. But who made that happen? Can you imagine the first time parade-goers saw those balloons float into view? Back in 1924 Macy's began the parade to honor their employees many of whom were immigrants with happy memories of celebrations back in their homelands. A young puppeteer, Tony Sarg, was called to create a fun-filled parade for all. Tony brought his special gifts to the task but that first parade didn't have those balloons we look forward to each year. So, what happened? Ages 5-9

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