Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Sky's the Limit

In the great city of New York, I hear a parade is planned today. Something about a football game. However, my mind is on another event in the Big Apple, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. This annual festive celebration is made possible by one man’s quest to make things move.

BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY, the True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, Houghton Mifflin, 2011

For Tony Sarg it may have started when he was six years old and didn’t want to get out of bed to feed the chickens. He analyzed the problem, made a plan, and rigged up a pulley system that worked so well Tony stayed in his warm bed, the chickens were well fed, and reportedly, his amazed father never asked him to do another chore.

From London to New York to Broadway where Tony Sarg’s Marionettes performed, to Macy’s holiday windows where Tony entertained hordes of jostling shoppers with his mechanical marionettes, to a parade of street carnivals from around the world, Tony Sarg was always looking for the next step toward making his puppets look and move like actors on a stage.

Author/illustrator Sweet also loves to figure out how to make things move. Her characters on the page of this charming book have a light airy movement of their own. Sweet's well researched text flows easily along a timeline that is easy for young readers to grasp. This is a biography of Tony Sarg and a brief mini-biography of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The first Thanksgiving Day parade was held in 1924, from Harlem to Harold Square. Do you suppose Tony Sarg ever dreamed his creative genius would result in today’s annual extravaganza watched by thousands on the streets and hundreds of thousands more on TV?

In the recent frenzy of award ceremonies, this charming, fun biography of Tony Sarg which is also a mini-biography of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade won both the Sibert Award and the Orbis Pictus Award. As a result, there may be a waiting list at your library or the book may be back ordered at your favorite independent book store. It’s worth the wait.

In the meantime, for more about these whimsical puppets, take a look at the author’s web site. This could open up a new path of expression for your young readers.

Or you.

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