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

"For me, it's a fun thing," said Sylie Kantorovitz, an Albany-based author and illustrator. "You get to meet with the world instead of being stuck in the studio all day."

Mahoney, an Albany native, is particularly excited because he never had the chance to meet any authors himself when he was a kid. Not that that stopped him from aspiring to be published himself " he still has a folder full of comic books he created when he was younger.

"I've just always loved to draw," he said.

The same is true of Kantorovitz, who spent a year teaching in her native France before deciding to try to make it as a children's book illustrator and author. Like Mahoney, she landed a big break after taking her portfolio to Manhattan and showing it around. A publisher wanted her to illustrate "The Wheels on the Bus," a song book by well-known children's musician Raffi.

It's common for a publisher to pair a relatively new and unknown illustrator with a high-profile writer, Kantorovitz explained. That's because they can save a few bucks on the illustrator while paying the star the big money.

Not that Kantorovitz was complaining. She was thrilled for the chance to actually make money through her art.

More illustrating gigs followed, and then Kantorovitz had a daughter, Sosha. As Kantorovitz regaled her daughter with stories, she decided to try to have a book of her own published. In 2004, that dream was realized when Kantorovitz's "I Love You, Mister Bear" was printed.

"It's based on my daughter," she said. "We used to go to yard sales and look for toys."

"I Love You, Mister Bear" tells the story of one such toy, a raggedy teddy bear that the main character " also named Sosha " finds at a yard sale. She takes the bear home and fixes it up until it's as good as new.

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