SNAIL HAS LUNCH with Mary Peterson


Author-Illustrator Mary Peterson, a critique group pal of mine, has a new book out to get us excited about our gardens and new tasty growing things!

The book is called SNAIL HAS LUNCH, and is in a unique format that I hope to see a lot more of in children’s books these days, which is the highly illustrated chapter book. I SO wish this book came out when I was a kid, because I wasn’t at all interested in reading without pictures. This book has fun illustrations mixed with text across all 64 pages!

I’ve asked Mary to join us on Picture Book Builders to share more about the making of her book. But first, meet Snail:

Snail is a merry little mollusk in his rusty bucket. Day after day, rain or shine, Snail doesn’t move—and that suits him just fine. But when his bucket is turned over, his life takes a topsy-turvy turn. A journey through the vegetable garden with his adventurous friend Ladybug proves delicious—red, juicy strawberries…YUM!—and dangerous when he comes face to face with a gopher, then a rabbit, and an unfortunate nibble on a hot red pepper…

Can Snail find happiness in this big, new world—or will he wish he never left his bucket?

Q: Hi Mary! Thanks for joining us to talk about SNAIL HAS LUNCH. When I first saw a draft of this story during a critique group meeting a couple years ago, it was a traditionally formatted picture book. How did the idea come about for this to be an early chapter book?

Mary: The idea came as a surprise request from Simon & Schuster editor Karen Nagel to my agent, Jen Rofé. SNAIL, the picture book manuscript, was ready for submission when Karen asked Jen if she had any funny stories that might fit into the new Aladdin/PIX imprint. PIX publishes humorous easy-to-read chapter books. SNAIL seemed like just the ticket and I was excited to give it a go.

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Q: As both an illustrator and author, what did you find that you liked the most about this new format? And what did you find most challenging?

Mary: Right away I was excited about writing a longer story—an idea I’ve been dabbling with for some time. As a picture book illustrator, I mostly write picture book texts—texts that start out WAY too long, way too complicated and way too impossible in every way. Followed by the hard work of paring it down to the heart of the story. Now I had the chance to grow that picture book size idea into a longer piece. This was an exciting opportunity….

….and daunting. Make the story longer—again—but not in the messy clumsy way of my first drafts. I was accustomed to whittling, now the challenge was to enlarge Snail and Ladybug’s world and make it coherent and fun and adventurous. But I wasn’t alone! Karen Nagel guided me through the process and I loved every minute of it. Thanks to Karen, I learned a lot (tons in fact) about writing for this special group of young readers.

(click to enlarge)

Q: Do you think you’ll do more stories in this format in the future?

Mary: For sure. I enjoy the mixed bag of story telling and page design styles that can be drawn upon. It’s a wonderfully playful format in that way. Comic book sequences, charts and graphs, dialog, exposition, gags, whatever it takes to keep the reader entertained.

Q: What is your favorite food item in your book garden?

Mary: Easy question Eliza, STRAWBERRIES!

Of course they are! Thanks so much, Mary, for sharing about your sweet new book with Picture Book Builders. To see more of Mary’s work visit her site,, and if you missed my post last year about her work for the book DIG IN, by Cindy Jenson-Elliott, check that out here.

Eliza Wheeler

Eliza Wheeler is the author-illustrator of MISS MAPLE’S SEEDS (Penguin), which debuted on the New York Times Best Seller list. She also illustrated Holly Black’s Newbery Honor winning novel DOLL BONES (Simon & Schuster), Pat Zietlow Miller’s picture book WHEREVER YOU GO (Little Brown), Mara Rockliff’s picture book THE GRUDGE KEEPER (Peachtree), and Tricia Springstubb's new middle grade series CODY (Candlewick). Eliza received the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Grand Prize Award for best portfolio at the 2011 SCBWI National Conference. Eliza is a northern Wisconsin native currently living with her husband in Los Angeles, California. See her work at


  1. So, so adorable. The artwork is charming, and so is snail in his bucket. I’m excited that more books in this format are being published and finding their way into the hands of early readers. Kids are going to love this book!

  2. This looks darling, so cute. I like the premise. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Oh, this looks so, SO cute. Congratulations, Mary! And thanks, Eliza, for featuring SNAIL HAS LUNCH!

  4. I’m definitely adding this special snail tale to my “Must Read” list! Thanks, Eliza, for highlighting it.

  5. This looks adorable! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  6. This book looks so sweet and delicious I want to give it a hug!

  7. Nice post and the books looks great! Can’t wait to read.

  8. Cute! I’m sure kids will love learning to read this book.

  9. What an interesting post! Looking forward to seeing this book and more of this format.

  10. This looks adorable! Congratulations, Mary, and thanks for sharing, Eliza!

  11. This looks adorable!! Congrats, Mary!!

  12. My goodness! This book is darling!

  13. My students love this format; a mash up of picture book, chapter book and graphic novel. I look for them whenever I place orders.

  14. This looks wonderful. I’m looking forward to seeing how this format was used.

  15. Patricia Nozell

    This looks so cute & it’s intriguing to learn how you enlarged a picture book text to become an early reader.

  16. Thank you Eliza for sharing my SNAIL story and thank you for all the lovely comments! This was a dream project and I hope more books like it are published.

  17. Thank you to everyone for reading and for these wonderful comments!! xo

  18. So cute! Adding to my tbr pile….

  19. It’s already on order! Thanks for the introduction. When she’s ready, I’d love to hear the “tons” of stuff she learned about early chapter books!

  20. Thanks for the great interview. I am a big MARY fan. 🙂

  21. Mary,
    I’ve been dreaming about this: a chapter book with pictures. I”m so glad to know that it exists. Thanks for your informative post.

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