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Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade Hardcover – Nov 1 2011

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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
A Top Book of the Year for me Nov. 1 2011
By Jason Kirkfield - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In a happy turn of serendipity, I recently found myself enjoying two new children's books about things that fly.

Balloons over Broadway, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont, written by Victoria Griffith and illustrated by Eva Montanari, both transport the reader back to the early years of the 20th century, before television and Pokemon. A hundred years ago, children played with sticks and rocks. At least, that is, when they weren't too busy working. In 1910, two million children under the age of fifteen were employed (some would say 'enslaved') in industrial jobs in the United States. This left little time for reading or anything else. Child labor reform would soon lead to improvements in public education--now children needed to be looked after during the day--and effectively ushered in a second Golden Age of children's literature, adding soon-to-be classics from giants like Dr. Seuss, Virginia Lee Burton, and Robert McCloskey to the canon populated by Alice and Pooh.

Now it's 2011. Today's kids have it better, at least in some ways. Life expectancies are up and industrial accidents are down. On the other hand, youngsters often very easily fall into the trap of 24/7 branded characters and hand-held devices. Parents must try harder than ever to pull children away from video games and instead nurture their own imagination. So you want something entertaining but also illuminating? Step right this way! Learning isn't just for kids, anyway. I'm no toddler myself, but I had no clue about the origin of the balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And I would have claimed that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Clearly, reading books with your children is an opportunity not only to spend time together, but also to share in the discovery of knowledge.

I found it inspiring to learn about these two pioneers, Tony Sarg ("rhymes with aargh!") and the melodically-named Alberto Santos-Dumont. The former was a child at heart who claimed that he had "never done a stroke of work in my life," while the latter naively believed that harnessing flight would lead to world peace: "Once people are able to fly to different countries, they will see how much we have in common. We will all be friends." Sarg and Santos-Dumont worked tirelessly for the benefit of others. Worthy role models, both.

Sweet's book has an official release date of November 1st, while Griffith's book came out two months ago. Both are large hardcovers with top quality printing and paper. Both also include biographical information presented as Author's Notes, so you can flesh out the stories after doing a little postscript cribbing, or simply let an older child explore further on their own. (Please note that Santos-Dumont took his own life, sadly. Although not mentioned in the other book, Sarg, too, died under less than fairytale circumstances: bankrupt and from a ruptured appendix.)

Both books, too, are written for the same age range (4-8) though I think the upper end is best for the Griffith book, the better to appreciate the more mature Impressionist-inspired artwork by Eva Montanari. This same book also contains a high ratio of words per page which may test the patience of a younger audience.

I would be shocked if anyone has an attention problem with Melissa Sweet's balloon book. But I wouldn't be surprised if it pulls in some kid lit awards at the end of this year. She is already a Caldecott Honoree for her illustrative work, and when you see the tactile world full of mixed media puppetry that she has created here, you will not be surprised, either. I can't remember how many children's books I have reviewed in 2011--Amazon discontinued their tagging feature some months ago--but this was for sure one of the Top Books of the Year for me. You and your child could spend hours looking at every single page. Even the endpapers are eye candy.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade and The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont should both be added to your bookshelf. I hope the authors get the attention and recognition they deserve. They certainly have mine.

[The reviewer was provided with complimentary copies of both books, which are, incidentally, from different publishers.]
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
I love this book! Nov. 14 2011
By S. Rinker - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Both of my boys - age 6 and 10 - loved this book. It's a story about problem-solving and innovation, as well as a lovely tribute to Tony Sarg, the creator of the Macy's balloons. Both of my boys were impressed with the biography, and found the story compelling. Additionally, the book is absolutely gorgeous --- Sweet's artistry with mixed media and her ability to layer graphic elements make the book both beautiful and visually interesting. Highly recommend: a perfect read at Thanksgiving time --- and any time.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Very interesting story, my kids were fascinated. Dec 28 2011
By Heidi Morgan - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a homeschooling mom I am constantly on the search for interesting, informative books. I ordered this book prior to Thanksgiving and we DVR'd the Macy's Day Parade (because Thanksgiving morning is busy family time) the next day we sat down and watched the parade and then re-read the book and discussed the making of the balloons which provoked some interesting conversations about creativity and why rubber wasn't available during the war. I really appreciate children's authors who tackle biographical and historical topics and make them colorful and interesting to younger children. FYI my children are 5 and almost 7.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Okay if you've seen parade Jan. 19 2013
By Mary J - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Cute illustrations, but very specific to the parade. My grandson liked the pictures, but he lost interest in the narrative as it bogged down with details that were beyond him.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A Little Piece of Parade History Nov. 25 2011
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought Balloons Over Broadway to prelude our family trip to the 2011 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. I wanted my kids to learn some history while I hyped them up for their first trip to The Big Apple. My boys ages 5 & 7 love the story. One of them brought it to school and the teacher shared it with his class before Thanksgiving break and they too liked Balloons Over Broadway. The pictures are amazing! At one point the illustrator drew a balloon sideways to span vertically between the two pages making it so that you have to turn the book to see how giant the balloon is! While you won't see any of the modern day balloons in this book (Spiderman, Spongebob, ect.), the balloons that are featured in it are very nice and relevent to it's time period, (mostly zoo animals, elves, stars, a policeman, & Santa Claus of course!) Balloons Over Broadway really brings Tony's story to life in a way that everybody will be able to appreciate. One of my kids favorite parts of the book is the replica of the original 1933 New York Times Adverisement of the parade which also spans across 2 pages making it almost the length of a real newspaper.