Every year, one of the highlights of Thanksgiving in New York City is heading to the Upper West Side and watching the massive balloons that Macy’s features in their annual parade being inflated. Getting up close with these larger than life representations of characters from some of our favorite childhood literary tales is a treat. Here are some of our favorite characters that have taken over the city streets in past parades.
First appearing in the Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1990, Clifford The Big Red Dog, from Norman Bridwell’s eponymously titled children’s book series, is a perpetual favorite among early school age children. Clifford makes a natural choice for a giant balloon in the parade – starting as the runt of the litter as a puppy, he soon grows to over 25 feet tall in the books! This is one instance where turning a beloved larger-than-life character into an oversized balloon requires no suspension of disbelief for children.
Thomas The Tank Engine, the cheeky steam powered locomotive from Wilbert and Christopher Awdry’s The Railway Series books first choo-choo’d his way down Manhattan’s streets in the 2014 parade. First introduced to young readers in 1946, Thomas has become one of children’s literatures most famous faces, not to mention a star of the screen and a perpetual feature in toy boxes across the country.
We love the polite and genuine Paddington Bear, first introduced to the world with his old hat and battered suitcase in 1958 by author Michael Bond and illustrator Peggy Fortnum. Stories of Paddington’s adventures often feature difficulties that arise when misunderstandings occur and Paddington tries to make everything right again, a wonderful lesson for any child.
Some of the most cherished children’s book characters trace their origins to stories made up by loving parents for their own beloved children. Nothing could be more genuine and delightful than such a relationship to those who believe in the power of stories to change a child’s life. Babar, the young elephant who escapes the hunter that killed his mother and having visited a big city, returns to bring the benefits of civilization to his fellow elephants, is one such character. First appearing in 1931’s Histoire de Babar, by Jean de Brunhoff, he is actually based on a story Brunhoff’s wife, Cecile, invented for their children. From a parent’s imagination to a globally renowned king for over 80 years! That’s a magical tale if there ever was one.
Maurice Sendak, one of America’s most cherished illustrators and writers of children’s books, first introduced the world to the book that would make him famous, Where The Wild Things Are, in 1963. This book is enshrined in the pantheon of great children’s literature for extremely good reason, children flock to the tale and, year after year, come to internalize its lesson of learning how to recognize and master your worst feelings. If your child has never read Where The Wild Things Are we can’t encourage you enough to share it with them.
Last, but not least, comes the Cat In The Hat, who first appeared in 1994. Though this balloon was retired after a mishap in 1997, we remember seeing this enormous goofball making its way down the streets of Manhattan. Dr. Seuss, the Cat In The Hat has delighted kids for nearly 60 years, giving the gift of imagination and wonder to children around the world. The Cat In The Hat was actually created in response to the debate in the United States over the ineffectiveness of boring primer books such as Dick and Jane, which lacked any entertainment value whatsoever. No one could ever accuse the mischievous Cat In The Hat of being boring!
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