Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade

Written By: Melissa Sweet

Before Reading

Explore Illustrations and Text:

Give your child time to explore the cover and illustrations before beginning your read-through. Allow your child to make predictions about what will happen in the story by asking:

What do you think this story is about?

How do you think Tony Sarg became interested in puppets?

Why do you think Macy’s first started the Macy’s Parade?

How do you think they make those big balloons for the parade?


Let your child know that the story you are about to read is a biography about Tony Sarg, the puppeteer that created the large balloons that are featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade every year. Tell him/her that the book tells his story from when he was a child all the way to his involvement in the first Macy’s Parade. Ask your child about other biographies that s/he has read and what they were about. Also, ask how this biography may be different from ones that your child might have read in the past.

As You Read

Vocabulary Building:

While reading, encourage your child to stop and identify words that they are not familiar with. Allow him/her to discover a word’s meaning by using the words and illustrations surrounding it. Examples of new words in Balloons Over Broadway include:




Making Connections:

Connect the events of the story to your child’s life by asking, “Does this part of the story remind you of something in your life or something from another book that you have read?” For example, when Tony Sarg invented the pulley system to feed the chickens without leaving his bed, ask your child, “What chores do you have to do? Can you think of an easier way to do them?” You can suggest that their solution doesn’t have to be a new invention, it can be as simple as putting toys away right after playing with them so that when it is time to clean his/her bedroom, there are less toys to put away.

After Reading

Summarize and Interpret:

To ensure comprehension, inquire about what happened in the story and the importance of certain events. For example, ask your child questions like:

What was your favorite part of the story? Why?

What did Tony like to do when he was a kid?

Why did Macy’s want Tony’s help in creating the parade?

{Turn to the page with the plans for the Humpty Dumpty puppet and instruct your child to look at the puppet’s plans for a moment.} Ask, “Why do you think Tony drew these pictures of the puppet before making it?”

How did Tony’s love for puppets help him figure out how to make the balloons for the parade?

This story highlights Tony’s incredible creativity and innovation, so ask your child about innovation by asking questions like, “Even though no one else was making marionette puppets for kids in London, Tony decided that he should be the one to start. Why do you think he did that? Do you think it was easy or hard for him to accomplish this? Why is it important to try new things and not just do what others do?” This is a wonderful opportunity to discuss your child’s passions and interests, and think of fun ways s/he can pursue these dreams, just like Tony.

If you don’t already, you can suggest that your family watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to see the real result of Tony Sarg’s work. Your child may have a newfound appreciation for the balloons as s/he watches them float down Broadway during the parade.

Activity: Homemade Marionette Puppet

Supplies: Stuffed animal, 3 dowels, fishing line or string, 6 beads, tape, drill and razor cutter

Your child can turn any one of their stuffed animals or dolls into a marionette puppet with this activity adapted from Ramblings from Utopia.

  1. To create the crossbar that controls the puppet, take your three dowels and drill small holes into each end, about 2 inches from both ends. Be sure that a bead can fit into the holes that you have drilled. TIP: If this is a little too many tools for you, you can also use superglue or twine to hold sticks together. It’s not as sturdy, but might do the trick for a few sessions of play.
  2. Then take the razor cutter and slice through at the ends of each dowel from the hole outwards down about halfway through the dowel. Place your dowels in an “I” shape and tape that them at each intersection so that they are secure.
  3. Take your child’s stuffed animal of choice and attach the strings to the head and each limb. You can either sew the strings into the stuffed animal or you can tie them on. Attach a bead to the end of each string and then slip those beads into the individual holes on the dowels.

You child can now make his/her stuffed animal walk, dance and jump with this homemade marionette! You can learn more about marionette puppets and their history from Puppets Now.

Writing Tips

Incorporate Writing Into Playing

Children are less likely to want to practice writing if they see it as a chore so make it fun and incorporate it into your daily lives. For younger children, this could be as simple as passing a note asking, “Do you want a cookie?” and then requiring them to write their response before they can have one. For older children, they can incorporate more writing into their activities like using a notepad to write down grocery lists or to do lists when playing house. This makes writing less of a chore and more of a game (

Have Writing Supplies in Every Room

Children like to experiment with whatever is in their sight so a child is more likely to grab a paper and pencil if it is in plain sight. A long piece of paper could encourage list making or note cards and envelopes may inspire letter writing. By making these supplies more accessible, children are more likely to use them as they play.