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Kids’ Q&A: Tad Hills

Describe your new book.
How Rocket Learned to Read is my latest picture book. It tells the story of a dog named Rocket who discovers the exciting world of books and, with the help of a little yellow bird, learns to read.

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands?
I was browsing books at Bookcourt, my neighborhood bookstore in Brooklyn, and overheard an animated conversation between my friend Zack Zook, the proprietor, and an older man whom Zack addressed as "L. J." L. J. was excitedly telling Zack that one of his books had been recently added to the syllabus of a 20th-century American lit class at Stanford University (if I remember correctly).

After L. J. left the store, I got the scoop from Zack, who then handed me a copy of L. J. Davis's A Meaningful Life, written in 1971.

Introduce one other author/illustrator and suggest a good book by him/her.
Brian Floca. His book Moonshot is really beautiful and a must-read.

Is there a maxim or philosophy that you live by?
Be friendly.

What three things would you bring to a desert island?
My family (I am cheating and calling them one collective thing) which includes my dog Rocket.
A guitar so I would (finally) learn how to play.
A hot glue gun.

What is your favorite literary first line?
"A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head" (from A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole).

Describe your most memorable teacher.
Two teachers in particular stand out: A. O. Smith and David Hornung.

A. O. Smith, my high school English teacher, helped me see the power and beauty of the written word and the importance of choosing words wisely.

I learned a similar lesson from my college drawing and painting teacher, David Hornung. He helped me see the power and beauty in a line or brush stroke. He taught me that every mark you make, whether it’s with a pencil or brush, is important and should not be made casually.

What fictional character would you like to be your friend, and why?
Charlotte the spider, because she is wise, bighearted, compassionate, down to earth, selfless, and has a fearless, healthy view of death, which I could benefit from. Plus, as a natural and effective publicist, she could make me appear more interesting than I am.

÷ ÷ ÷

Tad Hills is the author and illustrator of the New York Times-bestselling Duck and Goose picture-book series. He has created a number of board books featuring these characters, including the ALA Notable Book What's Up, Duck?. Hills lives in Brooklyn with his wife, their two children, and a dog named Rocket (who has not (yet) learned how to read).

Books mentioned in this post

  1. What's Up, Duck?: A Book of Opposites New Board Book $6.99
  2. How Rocket Learned to Read
    Used Hardcover $7.95
  3. A Confederacy of Dunces
    Used Trade Paper $6.50
  4. Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11... Sale Hardcover $8.98
  5. A Meaningful Life
    Used Trade Paper $7.95

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