Tad Hills never set out to be a children's book illustrator. “I really wanted to pursue acting,” he tells PW as he drops off the art work that is now our cover. After graduating from Skidmore College in 1986, where he studied art, Hills took on various freelance jobs—working on a screenplay, making marionettes and jewelry, and generally “doing art.” He also began creating book jackets for designer Lee Wade, another Skidmore alum whose brother was a friend of Hills's. Thirteen years ago, they married.
Their professional collaboration has continued to evolve. Wade, who is now co-director of Schwartz & Wade Books at Random House, spent 11 years at Simon & Schuster, and her husband did a number of novelty books for her there. Editor Anne Schwartz encouraged Hills to write a picture book, which resulted in Duck and Goose in 2006, and Duck, Duck, Goose in 2007. Hills's third book was, Waking Up Wendell, written by April Stevens, and three board books starring Duck and Goose are also in the works.
Hills now does illustration fulltime from their home in Brooklyn, and enjoys the freedom of being able to pick up his two kids at school (“Mo Willems's daughter goes to the same school—usually when I run into him I'm congratulating him on something!”). Hills finds that creating picture books uses many of his talents, interests and previous experience. “It's like acting,” he says, coming full circle with his long-ago thespian ambition. “You create a world, and characters in that world. It's basically the same thing—it all comes together.”