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Balloons over Broadway : the true story of the puppeteer of Macy's Parade
Written and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, p2011, c2011
Dewey: 791.5
ATOS Reading Level: 5.4
Lexile Measure: 1000

From the Publisher: 2012 Robert F. Sibert Medal Winner Winner of the 2012 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award 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, the award-winning 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 Americathe inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy's Parade.

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, the award-winning 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.

Author: Website

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Melissa is an award winning children's illustrator. She was born and raised in Wyckoff, New Jersey. She attended Edicott Junior College in MA where she received an Associate's Degree. She then studied art at the Kansas City Art Institute. She spent some time doing commercial art and has created greeting cards, posters and handmade books. Since entering the world of children's books Melissa Sweet has illustrated nearly 100 children’s books from board books to picture books and nonfiction titles. Her collages and paintings have appeared in the New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Madison Park Greetings, Smilebox and for eeBoo Toys, which have garnered the Oppenheim and Parents Choice Awards. She has written and illustrated three books: Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, Tupelo Rides the Rails, and Carmine: A Little More Red, a New York Times Best Illustrated, 2005.
Melissa illustrated A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams by Jen Bryant, a 2008 Caldecott Honor book, an NCTE Notable Children’s Book and a New York Times Best Illustrated. Recent titles include: The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra, Rubia and the Three Osos by Susan Middleton Elya, Baby Bears Big Dreams by Jane Yolen and Day is Done by Peter Yarrow.

Melissa states, “As a kid, I was always busy making paper dolls, playing with Paint by Number kits, Colorforms, a Spirograph. My first art lesson was watching Bob Gnagy on television in the 1960’s and I’ve been drawing ever since. Now I write and illustrate picture books in Rockport, Maine, a picturesque harbor town. My ideas come from everywhere—the landscape, something I hear on the radio or from a book I’m reading. When I’m not in the studio I love to ride my bicycle and hike with my two dogs, Rufus (who has a starring role in my book, CARMINE) and Nellie, a sheltie, who acts like a ninja in a ballerina costume.”

Melissa lives with her husband and dogs in Rockport, Maine.

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HobGoblin by Tony Sarg; Sarg Elephant Balloon, Macy’s Parade, 1927 ; Pinnoccio 1937; Helium-filled Nantucket Sea Monster, 1937;

Melissa Sweet’s Website – Interact with the author. Author website has a lot of activities to go along with the book.

  • Balloons Over Broadway Activity Kit – Companion guide to the book.

  • ActivityTV – A former Jim Henson puppeteer, John Kennedy teaches how to make puppets.

  • TLC’s Puppet Crafts and Activities for Kids – Create puppets.

  • Games and Activities with Puppets in the Classroom – Use puppets in the classroom to enhance learning and social interactions.

  • 10 Fun Activities to Do with Balloons! – Simple and quick learning activities with balloons.

Online Resources:
  • Thanksgiving Day Parade Tech – View technicians construct floats and balloons - 3:15 mins.“Thanksgiving Day Parade Tech.” 2012. The History Channel website. Jul 31 2012, 6:14

“History of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.” 2012. The History Channel website. Jul 31 2012, 6:08
2:51 mins from History Channel.

  • History of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade - View and read about the beginning of the parade. - 2:51 mins from

Video of 10 Top Facts about the Macy Parade

Video of a Real Macy's Day Parade 2011

Books that are similar:
  • Over and Under the Snow, Kate Messner
  • All the Water in the World , George Ella Lyon
  • Pop! the invention of bubble gum by Meghan McCarth

  • 2012 Robert F. Siebert Medal Winner
  • 2012 NCTE Orbis Pictus Award
  • 2012 Charlotte Zolotow Award Highly Commended
  • ALA Notable Children’s Book 2012
  • Booklist Top 10 Art Books for Youth
  • Booklist 2011 Editors’ Choice, Top of the List, Nonfiction
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book 2011, Nonfiction
  • Booklist Lasting Connections of 2012, Social Studies
  • Children's Books Of The Year 2012 - Ages 5 To 9
  • Fanfare 2011
  • Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts - 2012
  • Teachers Choices 2012
  • PW's Best Children's Books 2011
  • “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!”—
  • "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
"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
  • "Sweet's artwork is as joyous an affair as its subject." --Bulletin

Booklist starred (September 15, 2011 (Vol. 108, No. 2))
Grades K-2. This is a picture book about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but that’s on the macro level. There is also a wonderfully personal story here as Sweet introduces Tony Sarg, a boy who loved puppets and grew up to create them for one of the world’s most famous parades. As a kid, young Sarg was a master manipulator, making marionettes and inventing pulleys that could feed the chickens in his family’s coop. As an adult, he brought his marionettes to Broadway, where R. H. Macy saw them and asked Sarg to provide designs for his store’s windows and then, later, to create puppets for a holiday parade. Right from the start, in 1924, the Thanksgiving Day Parade was a success, and Sarg’s ideas became more expansive, literally, as he designed animals—part puppet, part balloon—that eventually became the fabulous creatures we know today. Through careful explanation and fantastic art, Sweet explains step-by-step how the balloons were shaped and evolved. The pictures, a mix of collage and watercolors, are as exciting as the parade itself and are presented in an innovative design that uses an array of typefaces, reproductions of old newspaper articles, silhouettes, and the occasional comic-strip format. The only thing that could have made this better is if Sweet had used her stand-out collage techniques for the balloon representations, instead of watercolor artwork. But that’s a quibble. What she has done is make a joyous piece of nonfiction that informs and delights in equal parts.

Kirkus Reviews starred (September 1, 2011)
This bright, brimming picture biography commemorates Tony Sarg, a brilliant, self-taught artist whose innovative helium balloons delighted legions of Macy's parade watchers from 1928 on. Sweet sketches Sarg's career as a puppeteer and marionette-maker. Moving from London to New York City, where his marionettes performed on Broadway, Sarg engineered mechanical storybook characters for Macy's "Wondertown" holiday windows. In 1924, he created floats and costumes for the first Macy's parade, which celebrated both immigrant and American holiday traditions. When the annual parade's lions and tigers (borrowed from the Central Park Zoo) frightened children, Macy's commissioned Sarg to replace them. Ever innovative, Sarg eventually utilized rubberized silk and helium to create larger, lighter balloons that could be controlled from below. Sweet's charming mixed-media layouts form a playful bridge between her creative process and Sarg's. She fashioned whimsical toys from painted blocks, buttons and fabric, combining them in photo-collages with old books, cut paper, imagined sketches for Sarg's projects, watercolor images of parade scenes and much more. Endpapers inform and delight, too, with excerpts from a 1929 book about Sarg's marionettes and a front-page parade invitation in the 1933New York Times. Backmatter is also a collage of treats, with an author's note appending further biographical details and comments about the art. This clever marriage of information and illustration soars high. (bibliography of adult sources, quote sources, acknowledgements, period photo)(Picture book/biography. 4-8)

Publishers Weekly (August 8, 2011)

Tony Sarg (1880-1942, "rhymes with aargh!"), the man who invented the giant balloons of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, has found a worthy biographer in Caldecott Honoree Sweet (A River of Words). With lighthearted watercolors, fanciful scrapbooking, and collaged typography, Sweet shows how Sarg, a self-taught immigrant, combined an indomitable curiosity with an engineer's know-how and a forever-young imagination. The story walks readers through each stage of Sarg's development as a master of puppetry-his childhood fascination with mechanics and marionettes, his first big break as a developer of window displays for Macy's, and his early earthbound parade creations (essentially air-filled rubber bags that were steered down the street). And then comes the light-bulb moment: "With a marionette, the controls are above and the puppet hangs down..." writes Sweet. "But what if the controls were below and the puppet could rise up?" 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. Ages 4-8. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Compiled by Dr. Roger Caswell, NBCT from Kansas Reading Association Zone 6, Flint Hills Council; Emporia, KS , and Judy Desetti created the wiki page. July 2012.