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Exclusive Book Cover Reveal: CLAYMATES by Dev Petty and Lauren Eldridge

I am a sucker for unique illustration techniques. Photographs, cut paper, painted hands – yes, yes, and well, maybe not (but upon further contemplation, heck yes).

Because of this affinity for the unique, an upcoming book called Claymates has been on my radar for a while. It’s written by Dev Petty (author of I Don’t Want to Be a Frog!), and illustrated in (as the title suggests) clay by Lauren Eldridge. Clay! Today I’m pleased to share the cover.

Before we go any further, here’s a synopsis of the book:

In an artist’s studio, two balls of clay commiserate as they’re sculpted for a photo shoot. But when you’re made of clay and can squish yourself into any shape at all, it’s hard to show restraint when your sculptor leaves the room…isn’t it? And it’s even harder to fix a big mess when time is running out. Claymates is a raucous, artistic journey about how these two characters get themselves into and out of the most hilarious trouble and find a friendship along the way.

I asked Dev and Lauren to explain how the book came to be. Here’s what they had to say:

The kidlit community is funny. We come from all over the world and connect mostly online, so it’s not really a place. It’s more like a little hive of book love made up of writers, illustrators, editors, agents, teachers, librarians, and other nerdy people like us. And that is just how a Wisconsinite and a Californian became faraway friends and collaborators without ever meeting each other. It’s a funny story.

The Wisconsinite was Lauren Eldridge and she liked to create characters out of clay and other materials. The Californian was Dev Petty, a writer of picture books about animals with existential crises and sometimes people with crises too.

They decided it’d be neat to work on a project together, and it turned out that Lauren not only worked with clay but was also an accomplished photographer. So Dev thought and thought and thought about something that would truly take advantage of a medium like clay and a talent like Lauren’s. And she came up with an idea…a picture book about balls of clay that can become anything at all. They get into lots of trouble, turn into things like flounders and peanuts for a while, and end up best pals.

“I couldn’t believe that she started with something so simple – two balls of neutral colored clay with eyes – and was able to develop not only a reality in which they exist, but also a meaningful relationship for two characters that are structurally limitless. So after she gave the pitch, I obviously said “YES, CAN WE PLEASE DO THIS?” –Lauren (the one from Wisconsin)

Dev wrote and Lauren sculpted and photographed. Unlike many author/illustrator relationships, they collaborated, they argued, they had very official meetings where they tried to figure out how to turn a walrus into a blowfish. The unique nature of the book, both in the writing and in the art, required that they be ready to change and address technical issues at times more similar to movie production than book illustration. They put together a full dummy of Claymates! Enter Deirdre Jones—extraordinary editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers—who liked this nutty tome enough to buy it. So happily, Dev and Lauren had another creative person to collaborate with, and after lots of revisions…a book was made! It’ll be out in June 2017. Ta-Da!

So in a way, their whole process mirrored the journey of those two balls of clay. They started something, made a bit of a mess, worked together to fix it and became great friends. Unbelievably, they still haven’t met each other in person—but it’ll happen, and it’ll make for another interesting story.

I asked Lauren to share a bit about how the cover was made:

Hats off to the fabulous trio of David Caplan (Art Director), Nicole Brown (Designer), and Deirdre Jones (editor) at Little Brown Books for Young Readers. It was a tricky cover/jacket for all sorts of reasons but it was a pleasure to work with such talented, kind folks.


The title was hand lettered by David Coulson… but we were able to take the jpg version and cut a stencil out so that I could recreate his exact design in clay… because: CLAYMATES!




Without further ado, here is a first look at the cover:

(Click to enlarge)


Thank you Dev Petty and Lauren Eldridge for sharing.

Dev Petty is the author of I Don’t Want to be a Frog, I Don’t Want to be Big, and There’s Nothing to Do (Doubleday ’15, ’16, ’17). She is a former visual effects artist and Berkeley native who still lives in her hometown because she really loves it. She is represented by Jen Rofé of ABLA, and you can find her online at devpetty.com and @devpetty.

Lauren Eldridge is a dimensional illustrator who uses a variety of materials to make characters and environments. Then she takes a picture and VIOLA! Lauren works out of her home in Madison, WI and sometimes “accidentally” scares her family members with clay and doll eyes for fun. Claymates is Lauren’s illustrative debut. She is also set to illustrate Sleep Train (Viking, 2017) by Jonathan London. Lauren is represented by Lori Kilkelly at Rodeen Literary Management and can be found online at www.laureneldridge.com

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.