Reviews for Balloons over Broadway : The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade


Booklist Reviews 2011 September #2
*Starred Review* 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. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
Marionette maker Tony Sarg designed mechanical storybook figures for Macy's window displays before inventing the giant balloon characters that would become the signature feature of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 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. An author's note and source list are appended. Bib. Copyright 2012 Horn Book Guide Reviews.

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2011 #6
At Macy's department store, marionette maker Tony Sarg started inside and worked his way out. He designed mechanical storybook figures for Macy's window displays before inventing the giant balloon characters that would become the signature feature of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 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. He loved his job just as much as the cheering crowds loved his balloons (one of Sweet's watercolor illustrations shows open-mouthed children fairly dancing with delight). Sweet runs through the various problems Sarg had to solve before his behemoths could fly: "He would have to make much larger puppets in order for them to be seen in the parade. And how could he make them strong enough to hold up in bad weather yet light enough to move up and down the streets?" (He hired a blimp manufacturer in Ohio to create his designs out of rubberized silk.) His biggest concern was that the balloons seem animated, that they move like puppets, so he came up with the idea to control them like marionettes, only with the control strings on the bottom instead of the top. Thus, thanks to Tony Sarg, SpongeBob soars. An author's note and source list are appended. christine m. heppermann Copyright 2011 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #1

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)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #2

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.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

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School Library Journal Reviews 2011 September

K-Gr 3--Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer responsible for the creation of those now-famous gigantic balloons that are emblematic of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Even as a child, Tony Sarg was fascinated with movement, rigging ingenious contraptions that allowed him to feed the chickens early in the morning while remaining snug in his bed. He moved on to create fabulous marionettes that came to the attention of Macy's, and he was invited to design their holiday window displays. In 1924, when the store decided to put on a parade to please their immigrant employees who missed their holiday traditions of music and dancing in the streets, Sarg designed costumes and floats. As the parade became increasingly popular and the streets more and more crowded, he realized he needed to design something that would be large enough and high enough to be seen by all, and the idea of the balloons was born. 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. Rich in detail, the gouache, collage, and mixed-media illustrations are a stand-out, capturing the charm of the period and the awe-inspiring balloons. This one should float off the shelves.--Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ

[Page 138]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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School Library Journal Reviews 2013 January

K-Gr 3--The Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is a holiday tradition. But where did those big balloons begin? With puppeteer Tony Sarg, of course! The informative, enthusiastic text of Sweet's Robert F. Siebert Medal picture-book biography (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) tells a little about Sarg's life and his career in puppetry, adding a few quirky details sure to amuse listeners. Then it gets into the details of his part in the parade, and the evolution of creativity that led to the balloons we see today. John McDonough reads the text in a measured, clear manner--rather like the steady, rhythmic march of a band--giving listeners plenty of opportunity to explore Sweet's inspired multimedia illustrations. The end notes give additional information on this fascinating but little-known character from history. A delightful example of good nonfiction that should capture the interest of young and old alike.--Teresa Bateman, Brigadoon Elementary, Federal Way, WA

[Page 69]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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