Kirkus Reviews QR Code
BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY by Melissa  Sweet Kirkus Star


The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

by Melissa Sweet & illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Age Range: 4 - 8

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-547-19945-0
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

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 1933 New 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)