Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade is more art than book, but that’s not to make light of the beautiful words that accompany author Melissa Sweet’s masterpiece of a book. The book is so detailed, so lovely, so charming that even if the content weren’t appealing, you might still like it, but Sweet has chosen an inspiring topic for her picture book. This non-fiction book tells about the man who first planned out and created the balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. If you are anything like me, Thanksgiving is all about family, turkey, football, and of course, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. As a lifelong viewer of the parade on our family room TV, I was surprised and had my heart warmed as I read this story.
Tony Sarg was the mastermind behind the large looming balloons that have become synonymous with the Thanksgiving holiday. From when he was just a child he could imagine and build puppets that became lifelike. When he was called upon to build a moving window display, Sarg created a beautiful scene, but Macy’s wanted more. In one of the book’s most (to me) surprising pieces of information; Macy’s created the Thanksgiving Day Parade for its own immigrant workers who were missing their own holidays and traditions. So, Sarg used his puppeteer skills to create the oversized balloons inspired by the street parades and carnivals of immigrant’s own memories of home. The result became a national tradition that is part of many of our own Thanksgiving holidays.
I love this book. I was stunned at the beautiful artwork. Each page features mixed media that seems almost tactile on the pages. Author Melissa Sweet hasn’t made a picture book to appeal to children, but to everyone’s visual sense using layers of paint, drawings, collage, and text. I can’t tell you how impressive this book was to hold in my hands. I wasn’t surprised to find that Sweet has already been honored for her previous work by a Caldecott Medal Honor, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this non-fiction gem also garnered attention from Children’s Literature awards. Like The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Balloons over Broadway should become part of Thanksgiving tradition. It’s beautiful and worth all the praise I am sure it will soon be getting.