Apple Crushing It with Lucy Knisley
Around seven years or so ago I moved from New York City to Evanston, IL. At the time, I had no idea that my new town was such a children’s literature magnet. Indeed it wasn’t long before I came to realize just how lucky I was in terms of the wealth of centralized talent. And not just children’s book creators either! There are a great deal of comic and graphic novelists here as well. Folks like Emil Ferris, Keiler Robert, Jessica Abel, Ozge Samanci, and . . . Lucy Knisley!
They’re all cool, but Lucy’s a bit of a thrill. I’d been casually reading her autobiographical comics like Relish and Something New for years. To have her in town? A sheer delight. Particularly since she’s been switching at least some of her focus to children’s books for the last few years. Her comic Stepping Stones was published in 2020 and fictionalized her life growing up, at least partially, on her mom’s farm. And today, May 3, 2022, is the publication date of none other than Apple Crush, sequel to Stepping Stones!
Here’s the plot summary, in case you’re curious:
After finally adjusting to life on a family farm with two brand new step-sisters, a young girl faces an even bigger challenge – figuring out where she fits in at her first year in middle school. This middle grade graphic novel explores family, friendship, and change!
Jen is just getting used to her life on Peapod Farm with her new stepsisters, Andy and Reese. But when the school year starts, there are even more changes in store for her. Jen has to navigate new friends and new challenges–but at least she’ll have Andy with her, right? As she starts the sixth grade, she finds that her stepsister seems way more interested in crushes and boys than hanging out with her, while Jen wants to know when the world decided boys and girls couldn’t be “just friends” anymore.
Jen’s story continues in the standout sequel to Stepping Stones that captures everything awesome (and scary) about growing up.
It’s kind of silly to interview her since she lives just a few blocks from me, but what the heck? Let’s do a good old-fashioned interview. Just like mama used to make:
Betsy Bird: Hi, Lucy! I know that somewhere out there in this world there are hoards of girls screaming with delight that a sequel to STEPPING STONES is nigh. But before we get to all of that, I’m curious about whether or not making a sequel was always the plan or sort of came up naturally after the success of the first book. Which was the case?
Lucy Knisley: It was always the plan! I wanted to tell stories about living on a farm, and that would always be seasonal. Every season on a farm is a totally different experience– different harvests and chores. Stepping Stones is Spring/Summer, Apple Crush is Fall, and the next one will be set in winter. While Stepping Stones is about shifting family dynamics, Apple Crush is more about shifting tides of friendship and romance.
BB: My daughter’s 10 a.k.a. sort of the perfect age for your books. That said, she’s currently obsessed with romance in everything she reads. Not necessarily fulfilled romance, but at least the acknowledgment that it exists in the universe. With that in mind, I know the main character in your book, Jen, is sort of rejecting that whole thing. Was that true of you at that age?
LK: I was a big nerd, like Jen, and many of my friends were boys. It absolutely rocked my world when the dynamics started changing around me. And having gone through my parents’ divorce, like Jen and Andy have, my perception of love and romance came from that background. But I caught on a little quicker than Jen– I had a boyyyyyyfriend at age 12, and I credit my early friendship with him to my ability to navigate those waters. For a lot of girls in my class, boys were MYSTERIOUS and EXOTIC, which is how Andy feels. All kids come at romance from their own angles; I was sort of a mix between Jen and Andy.
BB: Along the same lines, I know that STEPPING STONES was steeped in experiences from your own past. Does APPLE CRUSH come across as more autobiographical or more fictional this time around?
LK: I called “Stepping Stones,” my “fiction training wheels.” I’ve been making non-fiction/memoir comics for most of my career, and I have a lot of fictional stories I want to tell, but the thought of beginning was daunting. I decided to start from a place that was familiar to me– telling stories from my childhood, but telling them as a story, rather than as the truth. Now, as I grow more comfortable with fictional stories, I can navigate further from the truth of my own past and give my characters their own experiences! But I did work at a haunted hayride, as Jen and Andy do in this book.
BB: Now while STEPPING STONES had a clear summer vibe, there’s some serious autumnal feels emanating off of APPLE CRUSH. Inquiring minds want to know if there’s any possibility at all of Winter and Spring comics in the future as well.
LK: You guessed it! Ideally, I’d love to make four books in the series, but I’m not sure Jen and Andy will have that many stories to tell. Next book planned will be set in winter. Winter on a farm, to me, is one of the best. Cozy and quiet. My stepsisters and I used to drag folding chairs out into the snow with our sleeping bags to sit in the sun and read comic books outside. We tapped maple trees for syrup, and sledded on the big hill. We had to trudge up and down that same hill to open and close the chicken coop every night, and make sure their heat lamp was on and their water thawed enough to drink. I’m looking forward to drawing these details in the next story!
BB: Usually I end an interview by asking what the author or illustrator is working on next. In your case, I’d actually like to know in terms of both children’s and adult stuff. What are you working on that you can talk about?
LK: I’m taking a brief break from graphic novels to make a children’s picture book. It’s a story about a mom and a kid who go on a bike ride together, and encounter many other cyclists on their ride. It’s about finding a kinship and community in all kinds of people, despite their differences. My son and I ride together often, and it’s one of my favorite things to do. I guess I’m still not straying too far from memoir!
A great big thank you to Lucy Knisley for general awesomeness, and also for answering my questions. Apple Crush is, as I mentioned, available in fine bookstores and libraries everywhere starting today. Get it while you can!!
Can’t get enough of the incredible Ms. Knisley? Then listen to the Fuse 8 n’ Kate podcast episode when Lucy guest starred and selected Shrek as her book.
Filed under: Interviews
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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