When someone encourages you to think outside the box, does you head immediately fill with an image of chickens clustered together in a box, with one lone chicken outside of the cluster, pondering to itself?
That appears to be what Michael Kline, illustrator and children’s author, seems to think of. In a presentation to Megan Stucky’s fourth-grade class at Roosevelt Elementary School Thursday, Kline displayed the lone chicken and encouraged children to “think outside the bawks.”
Probably most well known for his book “Wordplay Café,” a book of games that plays on the different meanings and spellings of different words, Kline showed students the humor that can be found when thinking in-depth about the English language.
“The English language is fun to make fun of,” Kline told the students. “I’ll often read through the dictionary and just start laughing. My wife will find me laughing at the dictionary and begin to wonder if any of the neighbors noticed.”
Kline said he’ll often view words in a way different than most people may see them. In one example, he showed students a picture he drew of a monk eating from a bag of chips — or a “chip monk.”
“I’ll hear you say words, and I’ll know what you mean, but I’ll hear something different,” Kline said.
Kline shared how he worked a number of other illustrator jobs, including for stories in family fun magazine and greeting cards for Amazon.com. He has worked as an illustrator for “Kids Discover Magazine” for the past 20 years.
Kline said the fun of his job is finding different ways to present big topics to younger children. In some examples, Kline showed how he educated kids about greenhouse gases by drawing the earth with a thermometer sticking out of its mouth, while on the way to the doctor. In another, Kline shows the geological history of the earth through the illustration of a sidewalk in the park, with the history written on each block from start to finish on the path.
Beyond work, Kline said he’ll often illustrate just for the fun of it, because that’s simply what he enjoys doing
“When you illustrate, you can make anything you want,” Kline said. “You can make trash cans talk. You can put legs on a treasure chest. The world is your oyster.”
Kline’s newest series, “The Doodles of Sam Dibble,” will have its first book released on Jan. 24. The book is about a 9-year-old boy who has a penchant for doodling on everything and anything. Kline said the inspiration comes from the doodles he gets in the mail from children he’s met.
“It’s popular culture,” Kline said. “I interact and listen to these kids as much as they interact and listen to me. It allows me to see what it is they’re interested in, and how I can continue to connect with them.”
More information about Michael Kline, as well as some free PDFs of his work, including “Wordplay Café,” can be found at www.dogfoose.com.