Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Most biographies offer an inside look at someone we thought we already knew. Fewer provide an introduction to someone we have never met. These are a harder sell, because who has the time to read about someone we’ve never heard of?
Before reading Balloons Over Broadway I had never heard of Tony Sarg, the genius who created the giant balloon puppets for the Macy’s Parade. Melissa Sweet does a wonderful job showing the world why we should be introduced.
Tony Sarg was a puppeteer who spent his life dreaming of toys that were bigger, brighter, and more animated than anyone had imagined they could be. He started as a marionette maker, and made his way to New York City, where he took his marionettes to Broadway. Eventually he was commissioned to design animated window displays for Macy’s Department Store. These were tremendously popular, and when Macy’s decided to create a Thanksgiving parade, they knew Tony was the man for the job. Macy’s challenged Tony to make the parade spectacular, and Tony did. Combining ideas inspired by a blimp, an Indonesian rod puppet, and his own marionettes, Tony experimented and created a new kind of giant, floating puppet. Every year these puppets grew more ambitious until the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade became the extravaganza we see on national television today.
Balloons over Broadway is a picture book that kids can read again and again and keep making new discoveries. Though the biography is straightforward, the illustrations are complex, and full of references–in both language and artwork–to the ingenuity and hard work of becoming an inventor. Melissa Sweet’s illustrations include her paintings, photographs of toys she handmade for the project, and collages she constructed from Tony Sarg’s Marionette Book and newspaper clippings from parade days. This layered effect is wonderfully effective and visually delightful.
Children aged 4-7 will best appreciate Balloons Over Broadway, and they will learn something about invention, creativity, and dreaming big dreams along the way.