An "off the beaten path" Thanksgiving book, Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade by Melissa Sweet is entertaining and informative. I never knew until I was researching diverse Thanksgiving books, that Macy's Parade was originally created for the immigrants that worked for R.H. Macy as a way to alleviate some of the homesick feelings they had around the holiday time.
Tony Sarg was an immigrant himself. The book introduces Sarg as a young boy who knew he was a "marionette man" by the age of 6. He traveled from London to New York City where his gift of crafting marionettes became so well-known, they appeared on Broadway. Sarg was contacted by R.H. Macy to create something special for his holiday store windows. This led to a bigger job of creating the parade.
The evolution of the balloon puppets is a very interesting history. The balloons were a replacement for the live animals that appeared. The first puppets were made from air-filled rubber and were held up with wooden sticks, so people could only see them if they were in the first few rows. The wheels starting churning in Sarg's brain as he thinks of another way to create balloons that can be seen from a distance. And so the story evolves to the balloons we are more familiar seeing in the parade.
Sweet did a neat job of combining her fun illustrations of the story along with the more informative aspect. Some of the illustrations show sketches and brainstorms from Sarg which is a great way to show students the planning process. It was cool to see photographs of Sarg in the book and even a newspaper clipping advertising the Macy's Day Parade.
This book was an enjoyable read and I can't wait to read it to my 4th & 5th graders this week. For an activity guide, click here or a discussion guide, click here.
Image from melissasweet.net