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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Top Book of the Year for me
In a happy turn of serendipity, I recently found myself enjoying two new children's books about things that fly.

Balloons over Broadway, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont, written by Victoria Griffith and illustrated by Eva Montanari, both transport the reader back to the early years of the 20th...
Published on November 1, 2011 by Jason Kirkfield

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay if you've seen parade
Cute illustrations, but very specific to the parade. My grandson liked the pictures, but he lost interest in the narrative as it bogged down with details that were beyond him.
Published 23 months ago by Mary J


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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Top Book of the Year for me, November 1, 2011
This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
In a happy turn of serendipity, I recently found myself enjoying two new children's books about things that fly.

Balloons over Broadway, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, and The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont, written by Victoria Griffith and illustrated by Eva Montanari, both transport the reader back to the early years of the 20th century, before television and Pokemon. A hundred years ago, children played with sticks and rocks. At least, that is, when they weren't too busy working. In 1910, two million children under the age of fifteen were employed (some would say 'enslaved') in industrial jobs in the United States. This left little time for reading or anything else. Child labor reform would soon lead to improvements in public education--now children needed to be looked after during the day--and effectively ushered in a second Golden Age of children's literature, adding soon-to-be classics from giants like Dr. Seuss, Virginia Lee Burton, and Robert McCloskey to the canon populated by Alice and Pooh.

Now it's 2011. Today's kids have it better, at least in some ways. Life expectancies are up and industrial accidents are down. On the other hand, youngsters often very easily fall into the trap of 24/7 branded characters and hand-held devices. Parents must try harder than ever to pull children away from video games and instead nurture their own imagination. So you want something entertaining but also illuminating? Step right this way! Learning isn't just for kids, anyway. I'm no toddler myself, but I had no clue about the origin of the balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And I would have claimed that the Wright Brothers invented the airplane. Clearly, reading books with your children is an opportunity not only to spend time together, but also to share in the discovery of knowledge.

I found it inspiring to learn about these two pioneers, Tony Sarg ("rhymes with aargh!") and the melodically-named Alberto Santos-Dumont. The former was a child at heart who claimed that he had "never done a stroke of work in my life," while the latter naively believed that harnessing flight would lead to world peace: "Once people are able to fly to different countries, they will see how much we have in common. We will all be friends." Sarg and Santos-Dumont worked tirelessly for the benefit of others. Worthy role models, both.

Sweet's book has an official release date of November 1st, while Griffith's book came out two months ago. Both are large hardcovers with top quality printing and paper. Both also include biographical information presented as Author's Notes, so you can flesh out the stories after doing a little postscript cribbing, or simply let an older child explore further on their own. (Please note that Santos-Dumont took his own life, sadly. Although not mentioned in the other book, Sarg, too, died under less than fairytale circumstances: bankrupt and from a ruptured appendix.)

Both books, too, are written for the same age range (4-8) though I think the upper end is best for the Griffith book, the better to appreciate the more mature Impressionist-inspired artwork by Eva Montanari. This same book also contains a high ratio of words per page which may test the patience of a younger audience.

I would be shocked if anyone has an attention problem with Melissa Sweet's balloon book. But I wouldn't be surprised if it pulls in some kid lit awards at the end of this year. She is already a Caldecott Honoree for her illustrative work, and when you see the tactile world full of mixed media puppetry that she has created here, you will not be surprised, either. I can't remember how many children's books I have reviewed in 2011--Amazon discontinued their tagging feature some months ago--but this was for sure one of the Top Books of the Year for me. You and your child could spend hours looking at every single page. Even the endpapers are eye candy.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade and The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto Santos-Dumont should both be added to your bookshelf. I hope the authors get the attention and recognition they deserve. They certainly have mine.

[The reviewer was provided with complimentary copies of both books, which are, incidentally, from different publishers.]
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting story, my kids were fascinated., December 28, 2011
By 
Heidi Morgan (HOT SPRINGS, SD, United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
As a homeschooling mom I am constantly on the search for interesting, informative books. I ordered this book prior to Thanksgiving and we DVR'd the Macy's Day Parade (because Thanksgiving morning is busy family time) the next day we sat down and watched the parade and then re-read the book and discussed the making of the balloons which provoked some interesting conversations about creativity and why rubber wasn't available during the war. I really appreciate children's authors who tackle biographical and historical topics and make them colorful and interesting to younger children. FYI my children are 5 and almost 7.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I love this book!, November 14, 2011
This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
Both of my boys - age 6 and 10 - loved this book. It's a story about problem-solving and innovation, as well as a lovely tribute to Tony Sarg, the creator of the Macy's balloons. Both of my boys were impressed with the biography, and found the story compelling. Additionally, the book is absolutely gorgeous --- Sweet's artistry with mixed media and her ability to layer graphic elements make the book both beautiful and visually interesting. Highly recommend: a perfect read at Thanksgiving time --- and any time.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Balloons over Broadway review, May 25, 2012
This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet tells a story about how the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade was started. The book began with Tony Sarg, the main character, as a child, and it told about his fascination with bringing things to life. As Tony grew up, he decided he wanted to make marionettes. Macy's discovered his talents and wanted to put them to use for the parade they wanted to hold. Over the next few parades, Tony modified his plans to make the inflatable figures that we see today in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.
The book's organization and illustrations are arranged in a manner that is highly engaging to a student. Within every page there is a lot of different colors and images for the readers eyes to digest. In some pages, he illustrations are arranged similar to a comic book with several small scenes being displayed, on other pages there are real life puppets or papers overlapping the watercolor and pencil drawings. In the middle of the book, there is a two page spread that requires the reader to flip the book sideways to read it. This forces the reader to become more involved, if the previous illustrations had not already done so.
That way Tony uses his imagination to create something he loved may inspire a student to do the same. It encourages the reader to follow your passions, because Tony is greatly rewarded for following his own, even when his journey was in London. This story is fun for younger readers because it takes an event that is widely known, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and tells the story of how it developed. This was a great book, and I would recommend this book be read around Thanksgiving.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Okay if you've seen parade, January 19, 2013
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This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
Cute illustrations, but very specific to the parade. My grandson liked the pictures, but he lost interest in the narrative as it bogged down with details that were beyond him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inflated Over Balloons Over Broadway, April 6, 2014
This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet, a Caldecott honor winner, follows the life of Tony Sarg, the man who in essence created the modern day Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. The nonfiction story starts off explaining Sarg’s childhood invention, but then quickly jumps to his later successes with the Tony Sarg Marionettes show in New York City. The majority of the story centers on Tony Sarg’s work with Macy’s; the store first asked him to create window displays. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade used to have live animals, but they scared the children. Tony was challenged with coming up with a new and exciting feature for the parade that thousands of people could see. Sarg collaborated with a blimp company to create the large floats, and he used his knowledge of marionettes to give the floats appropriate movements. The success of Macy’s parade can solely be attributed to Sarg’s creative mind and imagination.
The author, Melissa Sweet has illustrated over a 100 books however has only written three. Her signature is whimsical watercolors accompanied by collage art, which is the style for Balloons Over Broadway. Most notably is Sweet’s work with the Pinky and Rex series; she illustrated the entire series. Balloons Over Broadway has won several awards, including the 2012 Sibert Medal, the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award, as well as the Cook Prize.
Although this book is categorized as nonfiction and follows the true story of Tony Sarg, I feel it lacks quality facts. The story itself overshadows the facts being conveyed. It is likely a reader would forget that this was a piece of nonfiction. I would use this as an interesting story to read with my students during rug time, however I would probably not use it as a resource when trying to study the history of balloons or the history of Macy’s Thanksgiving parade. The evolution of Macy’s floats is covered sufficiently, but facts about Tony Sarg’s personal life are missing. The large jump from Sarg’s childhood to his successful marionettes leaves a lot of gaps as well as unanswered questions.
The art is a collage of many different elements. Sweet spent time gathering materials from Macy’s, Sarg’s books, and her own toy sketches. She pieces together pictures of the story being described with Tony Stag’s own plans. The book’s cover is just a sneak peak into the time spent on the illustrations. Sometimes even the text becomes a part of the illustration when she wants to emphasize a particular fact, such as “It was a parade New Yorkers would never forget!” Not knowing the exact outcome desired, Sweet admits to playing with different types of materials to create the illustrations. Most notably Sweet switches up some of the pictures from being horizontal to vertical, which requires the reader to move the book in order to understand the page. She makes the page about the new type of floats vertical to accentuate the increased size of the balloons. I love the collaged appearance of the first page “Every little movement has a meaning of its own,” a quote directly from Tony Sarg, and the page is flushed with a portrait of the man himself. Even the black and white pages are filled with depth and dimension. By combing a plethora of elements Sweet creates a vibrant backdrop for Tony Sarg’s life story.
In both the storytelling and illustrations it is clear Melissa Sweet wants the reader to take away an attitude of play. Tony Sarg’s daughter stated, “quite Simply, Tony Sarg just never grew up” and the books comes off as the inner workings of a child’s imagination. The whimsicalness and playful environment makes this nonfiction picture book appear to more of a fictional one. The reader is not simply reading straight facts about Tony Sarg and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, but rather becomes engrossed in the growth of Sarg’s marionette show to the now immense parade. I would recommend this book to first through third graders. Young elementary children will appreciate the story’s colorfulness and connect to the information because they are familiar with the Macy’s parade.
Overall the intensity and comprehensiveness of the illustrations are enough to have everyone pick up and read this book. The missing information about Tony Sarg is made up for by appeal to the eyes. It is clear Melissa Sweet is an illustrator first, but even so this book is definitely worth a bedtime read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Piece of Parade History, November 25, 2011
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This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
I bought Balloons Over Broadway to prelude our family trip to the 2011 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. I wanted my kids to learn some history while I hyped them up for their first trip to The Big Apple. My boys ages 5 & 7 love the story. One of them brought it to school and the teacher shared it with his class before Thanksgiving break and they too liked Balloons Over Broadway. The pictures are amazing! At one point the illustrator drew a balloon sideways to span vertically between the two pages making it so that you have to turn the book to see how giant the balloon is! While you won't see any of the modern day balloons in this book (Spiderman, Spongebob, ect.), the balloons that are featured in it are very nice and relevent to it's time period, (mostly zoo animals, elves, stars, a policeman, & Santa Claus of course!) Balloons Over Broadway really brings Tony's story to life in a way that everybody will be able to appreciate. One of my kids favorite parts of the book is the replica of the original 1933 New York Times Adverisement of the parade which also spans across 2 pages making it almost the length of a real newspaper.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Whimsical, May 28, 2013
This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
Balloons Over Broadway is a fun book with whimsical photos and illustrations that tells the true story of Tony Sarg, the designer and creator of the first balloon floats for the Macy's Day Parade. Sweet introduces Sarg, who at a young age started to build moveable contraptions. From his young beginnings, he became a self taught marionette builder and performer, which eventually lead to his biggest job with the Macy's Parade. Sweet presents this informational text in an orderly chronological form, yet each illustration is not so neatly organized, with its mix of diagrams, sketches, photos, illustrations, and collages. It is this contrast between the text and the illustrations that makes this book work.

Melissa Sweet received the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children because of her well-written and attractive designed book. In addition, Sweet contributes her success of the book due to her own similar interest in gadgets along with her interest in mixed media collage artwork. She has a clear understanding of Tony Sarg the man, because of their like interests and similar personalities. This is one book I would recommend for any child because of the interesting way the information is presented and the overall artful design of the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book., Kindle version needs work!, November 24, 2012
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This book is delightful., but extremely difficult to read on the Kindle. The font is so small a magnifying glass is required. The story content is excellent.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orbis Pictus Winner!!!, January 23, 2012
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This review is from: Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade (Bank Street College of Education Flora Stieglitz Straus Award (Awards)) (Hardcover)
I am so excited this book won the Orbis Pictus award for best nonfiction book for 2012! My second grade students and I read many of the selections for this award, critiqued them, and sent our opinions onto the OP committee. They were very excited to learn today this book we all loved, was a winner.
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