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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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Children's book celebrates creation of Macy's parade

"Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade," by Melissa Sweet  (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, $16.99) Do you look forward to lounging in your pajamas and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as you gear up for an afternoon of heavy eating? This year, there's a delightful new picture book that tells the story of Tony Sarg, the immigrant, marionette master and puppeteer whose creations gave life to the festive tradition. Young Tony loved to figure out how to make things move. His father once asked him to feed the chickens in the wee hours of the morning, but Tony didn't want to get up that early. Instead, he devised a pulley system so that he could open the door to the chicken coop from his bedroom window.
When he moved to London as a young adult, he discovered that no one was making marionette puppets for children anymore. So he set out to make his own, and they were so lifelike, word soon spread about the amazing puppets. He later moved to New York, where his marionettes performed on Broadway. Soon, the folks at Macy's Department Store heard about the puppets and asked Tony to create something for the store's holiday windows. Then a bigger idea was born. Many of the store employees were immigrants like Tony, and they missed their holiday traditions of music and dancing in the streets. So Tony made costumes and built horse-drawn floats, and the animals from the Central Park Zoo were brought in to join the parade. The event was a success, but the live animals sometimes scared the children, so Tony was asked to create something to replace them. But his puppets were only three feet tall. What did he do? Well, if you have seen the parade, you know the rest is history. The energetic, whimsical illustrations make Caldecott Honor winner Melissa Sweet's book a feast for the eyes. Clever, bold and beautiful, this story of one man's ingenuity that has delighted young and old for 84 years will bring a smile to your face and an appreciation for the creativity of the human spirit. And as you watch the 85th annual Macy's Day parade this year, your children might be inspired to create something larger than life of their own. Just keep an eye on your chicken coops.

Keli Sipperley of Tampa is a freelance writer.
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