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Author-illustrator Tad Hills

The creator of Duck & Goose inks his latest board book.

From Duck & Goose How Are You Feeling?

Brooklyn-based author-illustrator Tad Hills says he can’t imagine living anywhere other than New York. But he would never set his Duck & Goose books in an urban area. “I don’t want my characters to be influenced by humans,” he says. “The only sign of civilization [in the first book] is a ball. I painted myself into a corner: For the sequels I couldn’t have a car drive by. I had to maintain that simplicity.”

Initially an actor and fine artist, Hills turned to illustrating children’s titles after fellow Skidmore alum Lee Wade offered him a gig designing book jackets. The pair married 13 years ago and have two children. Today, Hills creates titles for his wife’s Random House imprint, Schwartz & Wade.

Hills has written two Duck & Goose adventures aimed at the preschool and early elementary crowd; his latest, Duck & Goose: How Are You Feeling? (Schwartz & Wade, $7; ages 1 year and up), is his third book for toddlers. Like Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad, and the newer Elephant and Piggie series from Mo Willems, Hills’s stories focus on the close friendship between two animal pals, with few references to the human world. In Feeling, he uses his trademark vibrant, easily interpreted visuals to tackle the complicated concept of emotions. “It’s my favorite of the baby books,” Hills says. “The pictures tell a very complex story even though there’s just one word per page.”

Hills’s work is truly a family affair. In addition to collaborating with his wife, he looks to his children—Elinor, 12, and Charlie, 10—for inspiration. “They really help me a lot, critiquing and giving me suggestions,” he says. Because they’re getting older, he’s been thinking about branching out into young-adult novels. Now that they’re tweens, he says, “it’s hard to bring their experiences into this picture book stuff.”

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