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

Melissa Sweet

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Book Description

Nov. 1 2011 Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)

Everyone’s a New Yorker on Thanksgiving Day, when young and old rise early to see what giant new balloons will fill the skies for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Who first invented these "upside-down puppets"? Meet Tony Sarg, puppeteer extraordinaire! In brilliant collage illustrations, Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America—the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Parade. Winner of the 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal and the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award.


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Review

“Sweet’s brilliant combination of collage, design, illustration and text give Balloons Over Broadway an amazing richness. . . [no one] will ever see the parade in the same way.”—Pete Hamill in The New York Times Book Review


“It’s a history lesson, inventor's sketchbook, and inspirational story all rolled into one marvelous mixed-media masterpiece. Sweet's beautifully rendered true-life tale will have your child's imagination soaring to new heights!”—Education.com

"Sweet tells this slice of American history well, conveying both Sarg’s enthusiasm and joy in his work as well as the drama and excitement of the parade. . .This one should float off the shelves."—School Library Journal, starred review


“Tony Sarg, the man who invented the giant balloons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, has found a worthy biographer in Caldecott Honoree Sweet. The rush that comes from inspiration, the cliffhanger moments of creation, the sheer joy of building something and watching it delight the multitudes—Sweet captures it all in what is truly a story for all ages"—Publishers Weekly, starred review


“This clever marriage of information and illustration soars high.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review


“A joyous piece of nonfiction that informs and delights in equal parts.”—Booklist, starred review


"Sweet’s whimsical mixed-media collages, embellished with little dolls she made herself out of odds and ends, reinforce the theme that, for Sarg, work was play."— Horn Book, starred review

"Sweet's artwork is as joyous an affair as its subject." --Bulletin

About the Author

Like Tony Sarg, Melissa Sweet loved to figure out how to make things move as a child. (She even remembers taking apart her own marionettes to see how they worked!) Today, she still plays with simple materials to construct her brilliant mixed-media collage illustrations, for which she has won a Caldecott Honor and two New York Times Best Illustrated citations. About this book, she writes: "As I began to research Tony Sarg, I was especially curious how he went from illustration and puppetry to designing the huge parade balloons. After I spent five years reading everything I could find on him, the Macy’s parade, and puppetry—then traveling all over the map to talk to puppeteers—it seemed incredible that so few people knew of his work. I found him so inspiring, I wanted the whole world to know his story." For more information about the author and her work, visit www.melissasweet.net.


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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  124 reviews
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Top Book of the Year for me Nov. 1 2011
By Jason Kirkfield - Published on Amazon.com
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
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book! Nov. 14 2011
By S. Rinker - Published on Amazon.com
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting story, my kids were fascinated. Dec 28 2011
By Heidi Morgan - Published on Amazon.com
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Balloons over Broadway review May 25 2012
By Nick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet tells a story about how the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade was started. The book began with Tony Sarg, the main character, as a child, and it told about his fascination with bringing things to life. As Tony grew up, he decided he wanted to make marionettes. Macy's discovered his talents and wanted to put them to use for the parade they wanted to hold. Over the next few parades, Tony modified his plans to make the inflatable figures that we see today in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
The book's organization and illustrations are arranged in a manner that is highly engaging to a student. Within every page there is a lot of different colors and images for the readers eyes to digest. In some pages, he illustrations are arranged similar to a comic book with several small scenes being displayed, on other pages there are real life puppets or papers overlapping the watercolor and pencil drawings. In the middle of the book, there is a two page spread that requires the reader to flip the book sideways to read it. This forces the reader to become more involved, if the previous illustrations had not already done so.
That way Tony uses his imagination to create something he loved may inspire a student to do the same. It encourages the reader to follow your passions, because Tony is greatly rewarded for following his own, even when his journey was in London. This story is fun for younger readers because it takes an event that is widely known, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and tells the story of how it developed. This was a great book, and I would recommend this book be read around Thanksgiving.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay if you've seen parade Jan. 19 2013
By Mary J - Published on Amazon.com
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.

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