Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet is based on the true story of Tony Sarg, the original puppeteer of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade. This is a beautiful narrative nonfiction story that integrates biographical story telling along with creative problem solving which resulted in the creation of one of New York City’s most praised annual events.
When Tony was a young boy, he loved studying how different things worked. He had the chore of feeding the chickens at 6:30 am. Like most kids, he dreaded the task, so he designed a chicken feeder so that he could feed them from the comfort of his own bed.
As an adult, Tony moved to London and then New York City, where he began creating marionettes with lifelike movements. Macy’s approached Tony and asked him to design the holiday windows for their Herald Square store. The success of the store window led Macy’s to give him an even bigger job!
Many of Macy’s employees were immigrants. 🙂
As the holidays approached, they missed their own holiday traditions. In 1924, Tony was hired to create the first Thanksgiving Parade to help celebrate all the different cultures from around the world on the streets of New York City. The first parade consisted of costumes, floats and animals from the Bronx Zoo and was a tremendous success. Each year Macy’s requested more spectacular attractions as the crowds grew and grew. Tony had to figure out a way to solve all kinds of problems in order to keep up with these demands. Inspired by his fascination with engineering contraptions and his experience as a puppeteer, he developed the perfect solution: the Thanksgiving Parade balloons.
There are so many reasons I love Balloons Over Broadway. I love that it shows how Tony Sarg was a curious boy with an inquisitive mind from a young age. I love that the Thanksgiving Parade was created in response to people who had immigrated to the United States missing their own traditions and homes. This is so much of what our country’s history is made up of and should not be forgotten. I love that Tony Sarg encountered obstacle after obstacle, which he creatively and skillfully problem solved.
Balloons Over Broadway is the perfect narrative non-fiction picture book for kids ages 7-10. It integrates chronological text structure along with problem and solution. It celebrates science and problem solving all for the good of a community.
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