[Note from Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora got the opportunity to interview author Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrator Michelle Mee Nutter about their new graphic novel, Allergic! This graphic novel is great for kids of all ages.]
Aurora: What was your inspiration behind Allergic?
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD: I’m allergic to all animals with fur or feathers and (other than a couple misguided attempts) never had pets growing up. Growing up, I felt so jealous of kids who could have pets. And even as an adult, I feel like I’m really missing out on a special and unique part of the human experience (It’s hard being allergic to man’s best friend!). I wrote Allergic to share some of my allergy experiences through the lens of a fun, fictional story. I hope it helps kids with allergies feel seen, and help kids without allergies understand what it’s like to experience the world in this unique way.
MICHELLE MEE NUTTER: The second I read the first few chapters of Megan’s manuscript for Allergic, I knew I had to be a part of it. The world and characters Megan created are so relatable and even though I never struggled with allergies, I could relate to Maggie as she’s just trying to find her way through a lot of big life changes. While I was drawing Allergic, I was using a lot of friends, family and real life to inspire the places and characters. It was important that Allergic felt as real as I could make it and I hope kids will be able to see themselves and their loved ones in the characters as well.
Tell us what to expect from this book.
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD: Allergic will tug at your heartstrings and make you giggle, as Maggie, a determined eleven-year-old, struggles to figure out her place in a world that seems to be constantly conspiring against her big dreams and perfect plans.
MICHELLE MEE NUTTER: Allergic is filled with a lot of fun, busy family life and a lot of emotions. You’ll fall in love with Maggie and all her determined quests to find a pet. There are so many lighthearted moments to carry the characters through the troubles.
Why do you feel graphic novels are so popular and have such a voice right now?
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD: Kids today are very visually literate. Graphic novels celebrate this visual competency, but also encourage reading comprehension through narration and dialogue and even written sound effects. All of these elements work together to provide a really fun and immersive storytelling experience that can be enjoyed by a very wide range of ages.
MICHELLE MEE NUTTER: There are so many stories that want to be told and graphic novels are one of the best ways, both visually and narratively to do that. The graphic novel world has grown so much over the years and some of the stories that have stuck with me to this day stem from comics. You’re able to feel the story in such a unique way and with every panel you’re pulled into a different world. It’s amazing to see that these books are resonating so well with kids.
Please describe the content of Allergic and what can readers expect from it.
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD: Allergic is the story of an animal-obsessed girl who is about to adopt her very first dog…when she finds out she’s allergic to all animals with fur or feathers. Maggie has to find new ways to be herself, now that something she’s dreamed of and loved for so long is taken from her. And this is on top of her regular life problems, like figuring out tween friendships, going to a new school, and dreading the upcoming arrival of another younger sibling.
What’s next for you in the bookish world?
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD: I’m pleased to say that Michelle and I are making a second graphic novel together. It will be a realistic fiction standalone in a similar style (though not a sequel). We’re really excited to share more about it soon. Michelle is so great at capturing both the sweet and the silly in a story—and her character design is incredible. I can’t wait to see what she creates for book two!
MICHELLE MEE NUTTER: I’m beyond excited to work with Megan again on another graphic novel! It’s going to be a standalone book like Allergic is, but with a whole new bunch of characters, places and daily adventures. I can’t wait to share more as we get to work on it.
Who is your current favorite writer/illustrator? Why?
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD: It’s difficult picking a single favorite. But some kids’ graphic novels I’ve been loving are Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol, Stargazing by Jen Wang, and the Sunny Side Up series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm.
MICHELLE MEE NUTTER: It’s so hard to choose! It’s a tossup between Vera Brosgol, Jen Wang and Tillie Walden. Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol is still one of my absolute favorite graphic novels. The story is so much fun and at times bone-chilling. I can’t get enough of the characters in Jen Wang’s The Prince and The Dressmaker. And don’t even get me started on Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam, just stunning.
Any writing/illustrating advice for aspiring writers/illustrators?
MEGAN WAGNER LLOYD: Read a lot. And just keep writing! Learning to write well is like learning to play the piano well—it takes lots and lots of practice. Also, keep trying new things. I write picture books, graphic novels, and novels. But when I first started, I thought I would only write novels. I’ve fallen in love with new ways of writing by being willing to take the time to learn different styles of storytelling.
MICHELLE MEE NUTTER: Just keep drawing. Even on days when you don’t feel like it. There are so many bad drawings before the good ones and if you can push through those, then you’ll just keep getting better. You really never know where a passion like this will take you and you just need to trust in yourself with every step.