My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“Every little movement has a meaning of its own.” – Tony Sarg
Whether we watch it or not, most of us cannot recall a time when Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was not an established part of the holiday season. Balloons over Broadway is the story of innovative puppeteer Tony Sarg’s involvement with Macy’s and his creation of the iconic balloon characters that populate the famous parade.
Sarg became a marionette man at the tender age of six by devising a rope and pulley system that allowed him to feed the chickens without getting out of his cozy bed. He simply loved deciphering how things worked. After moving to London as an adult, Sarg discovered that puppetry was a fading art form and decided he was just the man to revive it. He taught himself to make puppets, and then experimented until his marionettes’ movements were as smooth and authentic as a human actor’s would be. Sarg’s fame grew as word spread of his incredible marionettes and their expressive, lifelike performances. He moved to New York City and began performing on Broadway. R.H. Macy was so impressed that he asked Sarg to create something spectacular for his next project: a holiday parade that would honor the festival traditions of the store’s many immigrant employees and celebrate the American holiday of Thanksgiving. Thanks to Tony Sarg’s incredible imagination and skill, awed audiences still gather to see beloved characters march along New York City’s famous skyline in Macy’s parade.
Caldecott Honor Winner Melissa Sweet’s brilliant mixed-media collages combine with her endearing watercolors to evoke a respectful, affectionate scrapbook celebrating the wit, humor, and whimsy of Tony Sarg and his many ingenious creations. Sweet’s collages — fashioned of fabric bits, found objects, and handmade toys and dolls — add texture, depth, and a sense of fun that reaches off the page, enticing the reader to examine each detail with care. Sweet’s prose is engaging and informative, pulling the reader into the story of Sarg and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. She outlines the difficulties that arose, shaped the design and creation of Sarg’s massive marionettes, and the improvements that followed.
Sweet’s playful illustrations depict her story, but more than that, each page is rife with details that enhance the reader’s understanding of Tony Sarg and the joy he found in creating his toys and puppets. Sarg’s belief, “I have never done a stroke of work in my life,” resonates throughout the book, emphasizing that, for Sarg, work was play, and his life’s work was a labor of love. Among the busiest artists of his day, Sarg always found time for his favorite audience – children. He personally replied to every single letter he received. Balloons over Broadway is a gorgeous, enjoyable book perfect for bedtime at home, storytime at school, or research for a project. An author’s note and source list are appended.