Some movers and shakers are in it for the sake of sheer fun. Tony Sarg loved toys so much he never abandoned them. Instead, he devised puppets that could float along Broadway for a parade like no other. Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade is Melissa Sweet’s joyous tribute to the man and to creativity itself.
Oh, the snipping and flipping and sketching that went into creating this fantastic nonfiction book. Beginning with end papers featuring vintage pages of The Tony Sarg Marionette Book and finishing with a dramatic 1933 New York Times ad (“HERE COMES THE PARADE!! IT’S IMMENSE! IT’S COLOSSAL! COME A-RUNNING!!), Ms. Sweet delivers a package that soars with color and energy.
Tony Sarg (rhymes with “aargh”) might not be a household name, but he invented the floats that fill multitudes of TV screens every Thanksgiving Day. Here’s how Sweet opens the story:
As with her other inventive work, including the Caldecott-Honor book A River of Words by Jen Bryant, Melissa Sweet constructs her illustrations with a bright array of materials. You can see behind the image of young Tony, appearing as if from an old book, she includes a layer of magenta topped with a cut-fabric border featuring whimsical circles. Throughout the book, she intersperses her own lively drawings and paintings with a pleasing variety of objects — rulers, buttons, and even her own actual puppets, to tell this story in an engaging and original way. I can’t imagine the Caldecott committee will overlook this book as a contender for the upcoming annual prize for illustrations.
The story of how Tony Sarg initiated a Thanksgiving rite with his 1928 parade based on street carnivals from around the world makes for a rousing read-aloud. And how many children will be inspired to make their own puppets? For ideas, see Sweet’s appealing activity kit at Houghton Mifflin.
“Five Questions for Melissa Sweet” from Horn Book.