April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

“Spot the Dog” Author and Illustrator Eric Hill Passes at 86


The author and illustrator of the “Spot the Dog” series passed away at the age of 86.

Eric Hill, author and illustrator who created the beloved “Spot the Dog” books and pioneered the “lift-the-flap” design, died on June 6 at the age of 86 following a short illness.

Though the author kept a fairly modest public profile, eschewing public appearances and self-promotion and referring to himself as “Spot’s Dad,” his books featuring the endearing and playful yellow puppy had a major impact, selling more than 60 million copies and spawning a franchise of TV shows, music albums, CD-ROMS, and apps since Spot made his debut in 1980 in Where’s Spot (Penguin). The books have been translated into more than 60 languages, and Hill received an Order of the British Empire in 2008.

Hill not only entertained young children for years with his cheery and accessible books, he “changed the landscape of children’s book design with his now-ubiquitous lift-the-flap design,” said Don Weisberg, president of Penguin Young Readers Group. His clever and innovatively designed books showed an intuitive understanding for children’s needs. The “Spot” books originally began with a design Hill created while working as a freelance creative marketing designer in the late 1970s that resonated with his son Christopher, then three. When Christopher began playing with the design, a paper-engineered novelty piece featuring flaps, Hill decided to come up with a book and story that his son would enjoy. The result was the seemingly simple but inventive Where’s Spot, a charming picture book about a mother dog finding several different animals as she searches for her lost puppy.

EricHillfeature2“Eric had an unerring understanding of Spot and his two- and three-year-old audience,” said Margaret Frith, editor-at-large for Penguin Young Readers.

Born in 1927 in Holloway, London, Hill was evacuated to the countryside during World War II. Later, he worked in London, first as an errand boy for an illustration studio and then for an advertising agency. He and his family moved to Arizona in the early 1980s and later relocated to California. The love of animals that inspired Spot was apparent in Hill’s life as well; he owned chickens, horses, cats, and dogs.

He is survived by his wife Gillian, their son Christopher, and his daughter Jane, all of whom continue to be involved with Spot.

“Spot has entertained and educated generations of preschoolers, a fact that gave Eric much joy,” said Weisberg. “He was very fond of Spot, and we are forever grateful for his contribution to children’s books.”

Mahnaz Dar About Mahnaz Dar

Mahnaz Dar (mdar@mediasourceinc.com) is Assistant Managing Editor for Library Journal and School Library Journal and can be found on Twitter @DibblyFresh.