ALBANY As a kid growing up in Latham, Matt McElligott always knew he wanted to be an artist. Exactly what kind, he wasn’t entirely sure.
“I was always the kid who was drawing all through class,” said the well-known children’s book author and illustrator.
McElligott’s drive and talent led him to study art at Alfred University in Western New York. After graduating, he began work as a freelance illustrator. At that time, his work consisted mainly of creating the pictures to accompany the stories. That was until one day when he found some old films in his family’s attic and was inspired to tell his own story.
“That gave me an idea that maybe there were clues in there that could give me answers to things that had happened long ago,” he said. “So I turned it into a story about a family every year for Thanksgiving – the family gets together from all over the world and has these crazy arguments about things that happened decades ago in the past.
“I pitched it to a publisher that liked it, and gradually my work began to shift from being mainly an illustrator to illustrator/author, and that’s the path it has taken over the last 15 to 20 years,” he said.
This story, entitled “The Truth about Cousin Ernie’s Head,” was the first of 13 children’s books McElligott has written and illustrated.
McElligott is one of 60 authors who will be visiting with children at this year’s Albany Children’s Book Festival, hosted by The Albany Academies.
Now in its fifth year, the event is meant to enable people of all ages to meet some of their favorite authors and illustrators, said Karen Schimmer, the festival’s Founding director.
McElligott said he hopes such festivals bring to light what it means to be an author or illustrator and show kids it’s possible.