Kid Lit Review of “Balloons Over Broadway” by Melissa Sweet

Kids who love the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade will enjoy this history of the parade, especially because of the outstanding artwork by author/illustrator Melissa Sweet.


When the parade started in 1924, it was planned by Tony Sarg, who designed puppets for the store’s holiday windows. The parade featured employees in costume, horse-drawn floats, and animals from New York’s Central Park Zoo. But the animals roared and growled and frightened the children, so Macy’s asked Tony to come up with something spectacular but less threatening to replace the animals.

Screen Shot 2015-06-27 at 6.17.26 AM

Tony contacted a company that made blimps, and asked for help making giant puppets that looked like animals. The creatures were a roaring success, and Tony kept improving them, so that eventually, they had moveable parts and were more balloon-like and could rise in the air. The giant balloon animals now gestured and articulated high overhead so everyone could see, and the crowds loved them!


On the last page, Sweet adds a tribute to Sarg:

“Tony Sarg – the puppeteer who loved to figure out how to make things move – had set the stage, with a little rigging, for a puppet to be anything anyone could imagine it to be.”

An Author’s Note at the end provides more background on Sarg and on the parades.


For the art in the book, Melissa Sweet used gouache, collage, and mixed media. The collages, as she explains at the end, are a mix of papier-mâché puppets, found objects, actual toys (including some Sweet made for the book) and fabrics, all painted or changed to reflect the world of Tony Sarg.

A bibliography and list of sources completes the book.


Evaluation: Be sure to include this book for your kids’ Thanksgiving activities!

Rating: 4/5

Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011


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5 Responses to Kid Lit Review of “Balloons Over Broadway” by Melissa Sweet

  1. BermudaOnion says:

    I think adults who love the parade would love this book too!

  2. Rachel says:

    I would be scared of a parade with live zoo animals too! I love the illustrations – so original!

  3. sagustocox says:

    This looks like a great book for Thanksgiving

  4. what a sweet book and incredible artwork! sounds like a must-have to read to my 4 year old grandson

  5. How cool! I love the mixed media. Those illustrations are gorgeous.

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