Lifestyle

Eric Hill, creator of Spot the Dog, dies at 86

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Eric Hill, whose effort to entertain his young son with a simple drawing of a mischievous dog named Spot blossomed into a popular series of children's books that have sold more than 60 million copies, has died at his home in central California. He was 86.

Hill died Friday at his home in Templeton after a short illness, said Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for his publisher, Penguin Children's Group. His first book, "Where's Spot?" — with its clean design, whimsical characters, and bold, bright colors — was an instant success with preschool children when it hit store shelves in 1980. It told the gentle tale of Spot's mother, Sally, as she goes on a search for him around the house — but finds a hippo, a lion and other creatures along the way.

But before his first triumph, Hill faced a number of rejections because so many publishers were wary of his use of paper flaps to hide parts of his illustrations — an innovation that was considered unusual at the time. In one case, for instance, a child could lift a flap in the shape of a door to reveal a grizzly bear gobbling up honey in the hallway.

"Familiar as we are today with a children's book market where flaps, pop-ups and all kinds of novelty and interactivity are taken for granted, it is hard to recall what an extraordinarily innovative concept this was in the late 1970s," Minchin said in a statement. "At that time, Eric's idea was so different that it took a long while before anyone was brave enough to consider publishing his first book about Spot."

Eric Hill was born in Holloway, North London, England, on Sept. 7, 1927, but he moved with his family to the United States in the 1980s. His career in illustration began when he took a job as an errand boy at an illustration studio during World War II, which led to a position at an advertising agency.

While he was freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his famous flap innovation, which fascinated his son, Christopher, just 3 at the time. Hill was so pleased with his son's reaction to his work that he invented a story to go along with the item, and thus Spot the Dog was born.

"Where's Spot?" was followed by "Spot's First Walk," ''Spot Goes to the Beach" and many others. There was even a short-lived animated series called "The Adventures of Spot." Hill is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.

Related Headlines

  • Ana Maria Matute

    Spanish writer Ana Maria Matute dies at 88

    The award-winning Spanish author Ana Maria Matute, best known for her books set during the Spanish Civil War, died Wednesday. She was 88. Matute died in the northeastern city ... 

  • Walter Dean Myers

    Walter Dean Myers, children's author, dies at 76

    Walter Dean Myers, a best-selling and prolific children's author and tireless champion of literacy and education, has died. He was 76. Myers, a longtime resident of Jersey ... 

  • Nick Cannon

    Children's poems by Nick Cannon due in March

    Nick Cannon has been keeping a notebook for much of his life, and next year we'll get to see some of the entries. The 33-year-old entertainer and record producer is working ... 

  • Nathan Lane

    Nathan Lane picture book out next fall

    Nathan Lane's first book is no shaggy dog story. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers announced Monday that the Broadway actor known for his starring role in "The ... 

Find your future job here