Friday, April 20, 2012

Balloons Over Broadway

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet (Houghton Mifflin, 2011) - one of the four finalists for Bank Street's STEM prize - is a book that fills me with nostalgia. Not that I remember the years when lions and other animals from the Central Park zoo "marched" in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (that preceded me by several decades). But I certainly do remember a time before the marketing-driven frenzy of the event. A time when the parade was closer in feel and intent to the heartfelt way it was depicted in Miracle on 34th Street than to some Disney-driven spectacular, designed to make your kids covet mountains of souvenirs and character-driven memorabilia. But I digress.

This story follows the career of puppeteer Tony Sarg. He's literally the man behind the parade - a German immigrant who was initially hired by the great New York department store to design a "puppet parade" for its holiday window displays. Eventually, he was tapped to create the life-size parade as well, meant to cheer up Macy's host of other immigrant employees who were missing home around Christmastime.

It's a terrific subject for a kid's book, and a fun, easy-to-digest history lesson. It's chock-full of engaging collages composed of toys recreated by the author - not to mention several pages straight from Sarg's Marionette Book. And it'll have more than one kid wishing that the days of the lion procession were still with us.

No comments: