• Happy birthday Valerie Wilson Wesley (Willimena Rules series) and Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, Monsters Are Afraid of the Moon).
  • It’s the birth date of Mary Ann Evans, pen name George Eliot (1819–1880), Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss.
  • It’s Go for a Ride Day. Take a ride on a horse, a bicycle, a train, a roller coaster, or whatever you fancy! Read Let’s Go For a Ride by Maxwell Newhouse, Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee, Mr. Grumpy’s Outing by John Burningham, Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Brian Selznick.
  • It’s Start Your Own Country Day, which itself started at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, whose theme was “Building The World of Tomorrow.”

For more than eighty years, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has entertained Americans. For many households the viewing of the parade is as essential as eating turkey. But how did such an event come about?

In Balloons Over Broadway, author and illustrator Melissa Sweet takes readers behind the scenes of the parade as she presents the story of Tony Frederick Sarg (1880–1942). Even as a child he was fascinated with levers and pulleys and creating marionettes. Tony actually engineered a way to feed the family chickens from his bed. He’s so likeable that readers want to be his friend only two pages into the book. Personally, I need him to devise a way to let my dogs out at five in the morning.

First in London and then in New York, Tony performed with the Tony Sarg Marionettes. Eventually the biggest store on earth, Macy’s, ask him to design store windows with puppets.

Many of Macy’s workers were immigrants, and they missed their own holiday traditions of music and dancing in the streets as the holidays approached. Macy’s wanted to give them a parade and hired Tony to orchestrate it. He decided to base the event on the street carnivals and designed horse-drawn floats. Then he added bears, elephants, and camels from the Central Park Zoo. On Thanksgiving Day 1924 the first successful parade moved from Harlem to Herald Square. Every year Tony helped design new wonders—and eventually he discovered how to make huge balloons that moved along the streets.

Melissa Sweet shows all the mechanics of Tony’s puppets, and she incorporates material from Tony Sarg’s book and early ads for the parade. In an endnote, Melissa tells us how Tony became known as the father of American puppetry and traces his influence to latter practitioners such as Jim Henson.

Today, as more than 40 million people watch the newest Macy’s day parade, I hope that some of them read this book—and pay tribute to Tony Sarg. A fabulous combination of brilliant art and intriguing text, Balloons Over Broadway reminds us that so many of the things that we take for granted actually have a long and fascinating history.

Here’s a page from Balloons Over Broadway:


Originally posted November 22, 2012. Updated for .

Tags: History, Holidays, Humor, Thankgiving, Toys
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Balloons Over Broadway


  1. My students loved this book. Hopefully they will share some history with their families today while watching the parade.

  2. Lori Mozdzierz says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Anita! Thank you for all you do for the kidlit world :D

  3. Anita says:

    Lori — thank you for posting! Happy Thanksgiving.

  4. G. Perry says:

    What a great way to start Thanksgiving Day. I’ll be reading this book ASAP.

    Among the blessings I will count today will be Anita Silvey and this website.

    OK everyone, go buy Anita’s new book, Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac. 2012.)

    And on with the parade!.

    Happy Thanksgiving Lady Anita.

  5. Anita says:

    Gordon: Happy Thanksgiving to you — and again my thanks for all your support over this last year.

  6. Bookjeannie says:

    I read this to my students this week, and as Heather said, I hope they share the name of Tony Sarg & the history. And thank you, Anita, for this wonderful site & for your love of books & sharing it with us! I am thankful for you!

  7. Susie says:

    So glad you included this. The book is a wonderful mix of interesting story and creative display. One of my brilliant library friends used this with her elementary students, and they they had their own parade through the school! The students made floats, balloon figures, and paraded through the school to show other classes, complete with a Santa float playing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” via boombox.

  8. Anita says:

    Bookjeannie: Thanks for the comment on the book; your support of the website has been so helpful to me.

  9. Thank you for sharing this wonderful review, Anita. I love the comment above where the students were inspired to have a parade through their school. Tony Sarg would have loved that. Happy holidays!

  10. Sarah Dahlen says:

    Such a beautiful book! Check out this online exhibit from the Kerlan Collection to learn more about the creation of the book: http://gallery.lib.umn.edu/exhibits/show/balloons-over-broadway

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