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Eric Hill, author of 'Where's Spot?,' has died at age 86

Eric Hill, author of 'Where's Spot?,' has died at age 86
Eric Hill, author of the beloved "Spot" children's books, died at age 86. (Penguin Young Readers Group)

Children's book author and illustrator Eric Hill died Friday at age 86, his publisher Penguin Young Readers Group confirmed in a release. Hill was the author of the Spot books, which began with 1980's "Where's Spot?"

Created for young children ages 2-4, Hill's books featuring the puppy named Spot sold more than 60 million copies internationally.

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Hill was born in London, on Sept. 7, 1927, and grew up drawing cartoons. After a stint in the Air Force, he returned to cartooning. He later forged a career in London in advertising, then turned to freelance art direction.

He worked on a piece of marketing materials that used a flap of paper to conceal and reveal part of the design. Inspired by the idea, he created "Where's Spot," which hid the puppy behind a paper flap.

"I am quite convinced now ... that the actual training of drawing cartoons -- which is, of course, my style -- led to my producing Spot," Hill once said. "Cartoons must be very simple and have as few words as possible, and so too must the Spot books."

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of Eric Hill," Penguin Young Readers Group  
president Don Weisberg said in a statement. "He was a visionary children's book author and illustrator who created one of today's most iconic children's book characters and changed the landscape of children's book design with his now-ubiquitous lift-the-flap design. Spot has entertained and educated generations of pre-schoolers, a fact that gave Eric much joy. He was very fond of Spot, and we are forever grateful for his contribution to children's books."

After the book's publication, Hill, his wife, Gillian, their son Christopher and Jane, his daughter from his first marriage, moved to the U.S., first settling in Arizona, then California. All three have survived him and continue to work on Spot projects.

Hill's books include "Spot's First Walk," "Spot's Favorite Colors," "Spot Goes to School" and
"Spot Can Count." "The Adventures of Spot" was an animated series based on Hill's books.

Fitting for an author whose most beloved character was a puppy, Hill had a menagerie of pets, his publisher was careful to note: horses, chickens, cats and, of course, dogs.

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