Written & illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2011
Format: Informational/nonfiction; Print Book; 24×29 cm
40 Pages ~ Ages 4-8
In Balloons Over Broadway, Sweet tells the story of Tony Sarg, the self-taught puppeteer who invented up-side down puppets for the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Half balloon, half puppet, Sarg created these helium-filled, rubber balloons that would become the parade’s trademark.
I knew I wanted to read this book for two reasons: the cover is so appealing and I love the Macy’s Parade. Although I was intrigued to learn Sarg’s story, I procrastinated opening the book, fearing the text would be less appealing. I was completely wrong! While it covers a long period of time, Balloons Over Broadway is a partial picturebook biography, as its focused purpose is on Sarg’s work (as an artist). Sweet concisely informs readers of Sarg’s curiosity and creativity at a young age – wanting to know how things worked, playing around with objects, putting things together to make marionettes. Although the biography covers Sarg’s childhood through the time he successfully created balloons for the parade, Sweet writes in a way that is age appropriate and provides just enough information to sustain the reader’s interest. This book reminds me of Molly Bang’s Picture This: How Pictures Work. Sweet discreetly points out that Sarg used simple shapes and glued them together, similar to the way Bang said illustrators use simple shapes to build a picture. I mustn’t fail to mention the amazing combination of watercolor and mixed-media illustrations. Sweet’s illustrations are as fun and playful as Sarg lived to be. I give Balloons Over Broadway 🎈🎈🎈🎈🎈.
- age appropriate text
- includes author’s note and bibliography
- celebrates accomplishments
- inspires readers
- gap in time that 4-5 year olds may not comprehend
Younger grade teachers and teacher librarians could incorporate this book in units on holidays/Thanksgiving and how families might celebrate them to promote creative thinking amongst students. It can easily be adapted by art educators as a community project where students research parades in their community and create their own half balloon, half puppet, of their mascot to show school pride. Such a project is ideal in a STEM school, as students could incorporate each of those content areas in the research and design of the project. Another option for implementing CCSS is to have students learn about biographies and choose a person to research and write a biography on or write their own autobiography. This book could also be used to teach younger students and those interested in theatre about puppets and how they work.
- A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant (illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Sibert Honor Book and NCTE Orbis Pictus Award)
- Jim Henson: The Guy Who Played with Puppets by Kathleen Krull (another puppeteer biography)
- Robert F. Sibert Medal (2012)
- NCTE Orbis Pictus Award (2012)
- ALA Notable Children’s Book (2012)
- SCBWI Golden Kite Award (2012)
Check out some of Sarg’s early work for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!