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.)
Sweet’s brilliant combination of collage, design, illustration and text give Balloons Over Broadway an amazing richness. . . [no one] will ever see the parade in the same way.”—Pete Hamill in The New York Times Book Review
“It’s a history lesson, inventor's sketchbook, and inspirational story all rolled into one marvelous mixed-media masterpiece. Sweet's beautifully rendered true-life tale will have your child's imagination soaring to new heights!”—Education.com
"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. . .This one should float off the shelves."—School Library Journal, starred review
“Tony Sarg, the man who invented the giant balloons of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, has found a worthy biographer in Caldecott Honoree Sweet. 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"—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“This clever marriage of information and illustration soars high.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“A joyous piece of nonfiction that informs and delights in equal parts.”—Booklist, starred review
"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."— Horn Book, starred review
"Sweet's artwork is as joyous an affair as its subject."Bulletin
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
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 1933New 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)
Sweet's brilliant combination of collage, design, illustration and text gives Balloons Over Broadway an amazing richness. Children who can read will learn from written details, footnotes, instructions from Sarg himself. Younger children should be dazzled by the visual excitement of each spread. For parents and teachers, there is a bibliography and a note from the author that can help explain Sarg. None will ever see the parade in the same way.
The New York Times Book Review