14:14 PB ELEMENT Blog Review: PLOT – Looking at Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet
Title: Balloons Over Broadway
Author: Melissa Sweet
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
This Caldecott Honor winner (for her A River of Words) has written the charming history of the intriguing person behind the huge and famous character balloons for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Tony Sarg’s story is uniquely interesting, describing the chain of events that lead to perhaps the most widely known parade tradition in the world.
In examining this book, I have chosen plot as a predominant picture book element, and I think it lies as the skeleton to the storyline, with its various sub-elements.
Background information on the end pages reveals that Tony’s grandmother collected toys, bequeathed them to him, and also passed along her skills with brush and pencil. The inciting incident in Tony’s life must have been phrase he read about marionettes in a book which begged, “Would that an artist and enthusiast would revive this ancient art of the theatre.” This sparked his study of puppets on strings.
The plot element links one event in Tony’s life at age six that connects to another related event, which connects to another related event, which connects to another related event…all the way to the huge upside down helium-filled “marionettes” that appear in the current-day parade. They line up as if along a street, where Tony’s personal character traits, the cultural aspects of New York, and historic moments appear. The events seems to march past our view, page turn after page turn, like a parade of sorts.
The action rises. Tony moves to New York. Macy’s hires him to populate store windows with his ‘moving toys.’ Macy’s decides to produce a parade for immigrants. Zoo animals are added to the parade. Each year the parade grew.
At the climax, Macy’s is in a dilemma (a conflict, due to ferocious animals from the zoo scaring some of the children). They pass their dilemma on to Tony, asking, “Tony, can you think of something spectacular?” And Tony, with the problem of producing puppets large enough for the crowds to see, works out his problem with creations that are “part puppet, part balloon…propped up by wooden sticks.”
People at the front loved them, but as the crowds grew, people in the back saw only the tops of his creations. Then the crucial decision: the idea of puppets hanging ‘up’ occurred to Tony, and the rest is history. And the action falls wonderfully from the first balloon-parade to the solid tradition we now enjoy from the streetside in New York to our couches as we sip coffee in southeast Arkansas on Thanksgiving morning, thanks to Tony Sarg.
Christie Wild highlights on her blog, under a wonderful description of the story element plot, a way to analyze plot that I will never forget: Somebody-Wanted-But-So-Then.
After reading this wonderful story, I find myself grateful that…
Somebody (Tony Sarg)
Wanted (to return marionettes to the toy world)
But (he was only one small man)
So (he moved to New York, hoping to expand his dream)
Then (Tony went to work for a Somebody named R.H. Macy, who Wanted a parade, But problems required changes, So Tony thought about ‘hanging upward,’ Then he created his ‘upside down giant floating marionettes.’)
And the crowds all cheered, and still do until this day.