June 15, 2014 in Features

Spot the Dog creator Hill dies at 86

Channing Joseph Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO – 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 has sold more than 60 million copies, has died at his home in central California. He was 86.

Hill died June 6 at his home in Templeton after a short illness, said Adele Minchin, a spokeswoman for Hill’s publisher, Penguin Children’s Group.

Hill’s 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.

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.

While he was freelancing as a creative marketing designer in the late 1970s, he drew a picture of a puppy using his flap innovation, which fascinated his 3-year-old son, Christopher.

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. Hill is survived by his wife, Gillian; his son, Christopher; and his daughter, Jane.

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