Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade
by Melissa Sweet
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, on shelves November 1, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher
There's so much to love about BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY for a nonfiction read aloud!
It is a true story that needs to be told. Tony Sarg, while famous to puppeteers (one of Sarg's apprentices was Bill Baird, who did the goatherd scene in The Sound of Music, and one of Baird's apprentices was Jim Henson), has fallen through the cracks of history when it comes to his association with the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And yet, his creation lives on. I think a read aloud of this book would be a great opportunity to talk with kids about all the amazing things they might accomplish in their lifetimes...that will touch lots of lives, but never result in celebrity fame.
It is inviting. In the classic Melissa Sweet style, there are large, bright, engaging parts of each illustration to be seen from afar, AND there are lots of fun details to be examined on a close-up rereading. Plus, it's about the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which has been known to (and loved by) generations of Americans. How many memories do YOU have of that parade?!?
It celebrates tinkering. Tony Sarg was lucky. He grew up in a day and time when toys were mechanical, and he could take them apart to figure out how they worked. Kids these days need experiences with tinkering. I was reminded of this recently when a wave of "fortune teller" making passed through my class. (You know -- those origami devices that you stick thumbs and forefingers into and pinch this way and that, giving the player the option to make several choices before you lift the flap that tells their fortune?) Nearly everyone learned to make them, then improved on the design in their own ways, either with innovative fortune choices, or by making the largest or smallest ones possible.
In our science curriculum, "tinkering" is know as The Design Process. As long as you PROMISE to make sure your students have the chance to USE the design process to create their own invention and then find ways to make it better, I will suggest that you read this book aloud in your science time in order to discover how Tony Sarg utilized the design process in the development of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. One more stipulation -- you are not allowed to do a first read of this book in science. You must first read it for enjoyment! Okay...pinky promise? Pinky promise. Now go get a copy of this book and share it with your class!
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See and hear Melissa Sweet tell the story of writing this book in this video.
Jama Rattigan has a FEAST of a review, with an interview, images from the book, photos, links, and a give-away. Check it out!