Children's Book Festival lets kids interact with authors and illustrators

Dan Mahoney was frustrated.

He wanted to turn his passion for art into a career, but he couldn't find any takers for the comic strip he'd drawn. He'd sent his portfolio to publishers, but it hadn't landed him any work.

So Mahoney decided to drive from Albany to New York City to hand deliver his portfolio to a publisher. As long as he was there, he thought, he'd leave a copy with a second publisher, too.

When he went back to the second publisher later in the day, Mahoney expected to find the typical Nice work, here are a few things you could improve note attached to his portfolio. Instead, he landed his first job.

"They said, 'We really love your work, and there's one picture we thought could be a story,'" Mahoney remembered.

That story turned into Mahoney's first book, "The Saturday Escape." He hasn't looked back since that big break, publishing two more of his own books, illustrating others and creating artwork for clients such as Scholastic and Weekly Reader Magazine.

Mahoney also makes a number of school visits each year, reading to kids and showing them the work that goes into putting a book together. It was during one of those visits, to the Albany Academies, that he suggested putting together an event where kids could come and meet authors from around the region. Mahoney had been to a similar festival in Rochester and liked the idea of holding one in Albany " a city that "never really does anything like this," he said.

It does now. On Friday, April 17, as the culmination of National Library Week, the Albany Academies will host a Children's Book Festival from 3 to 7 p.m. More than 15 children's books authors will be on hand to talk to kids, sign books and do demonstrations. Admission is free " the authors all said they were happy to donate their time.

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