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Ahem. Ahoy!

(You:) Ahoy.

There we go. Thanks for playing. I always like to begin conversations with potential friends by doing something just a little different. And that is me. Just a little different.

(You:) You’re not blogging from some kind of dark forest, are you?

Ha! No, but that would be funny. My name is Michael Kline, and for lots and lots of (20+) years I’ve brought my illustrative outlook to Kids Discover magazine in all manner of styles. Subjects that range from babies strapped to boards (Southwest Peoples) to flying cows (Severe Weather) cross my drawing desk daily, and the incessant parade of such items has given me the uncanny ability to carry on a conversation about anything, with anyone anywhere.

(You:) So this is a blog about dinner parties?

Oh for heaven’s sake no. I just wanted to let you know a bit about what you were in for.

My approach to art for the magazine (as well as the 40+ books I’ve illustrated) is straightforward. My mantra? “Never accept the first answer.” If I can come up with a good solution to an assignment, then I can come up with an excellent one. At the end of the day (there’s an overused cliche) I hope to leave my viewers/readers with something memorable, something fun, and hopefully something that kids can build upon.

(You:) You’re going to teach me to draw? I have laundry to do…

Nope. There are way too many of us out there already. But I am going to teach you a new perspective. As a parent you’ve likely realized that children are not born with instruction manuals (though I believe there to be a book entitled Parenting for Dummies). And by the same token, parents are not the easiest things to get a grasp on either. That’s where creativity (and yours truly) comes in. In the following weeks, months, years (as long as Kids Discover is happy with what I’m blogging and hasn’t been sued yet), I hope to provide you with some insight as to how to look at everything differently; from study habits to playtime, holidays to sleepovers, and siblings to snack time. Stick with me for awhile, and I guarantee that you will never look at dirty dishes the same way again.

(You:) Sounds like you have a Napoleon complex, but I’m always looking for ways to get the kids to study better or simply engage, so go on.

“Thank your.” (Greg Kinnear as Frank in You’ve Got Mail, 1988.) Whenever opportunity presents me with the chance to put on my jeans and sandals and leave the house/studio, I find myself the center of attention at area classrooms and libraries. The crowd can run from Pre-K to post grads, but the task remains the same: Get the kids engaged. And that usually translates as “Get their attention.”

One doesn’t have to look very far these days to see how much competition there is for the eyes and ears and brains of the under-4-foot generation. Video games, television ads that literally shout out your shortcomings along with a remedy, iThis and iThat…, heck, there are companies that want to put advertising in school buses. So how do you cut through the clutter?

(You:) How do I cut through the clutter? Seems like a herculean task and I only have the fortitude of Tinker Bell. (Ha ha, now I’m being funny.)

Patience. Rome wasn’t blogged in a day.

Let’s start with something every parent faces, a little thing known as homework. Generally, kids hate it, and parents hate the fact that kids hate it, even though when parents were kids they hated it too. So let’s change the perspective.

Perhaps your offspring is not content with the same droll drudgery that homework presents on a daily basis. Why not find a totally new space for the task at hand? Take a few pillows, make sure the lighting is good, and set up shop in the bathtub. It’s a fairly quiet space with few interruptions (unless of course you only have one bathroom), and the tile is very conducive to humming or singing to oneself. In short, the rules have changed. And be flexible. If your child begins to suggest other venues for studying (perhaps a darkened closet with an LED light, or beneath a blanket draped across a couple of dining room chairs), remember that the important thing is that you have their attention, and the homework is being addressed. Above all else, stick with your kids. Let them know that they are not in this alone.

More to come. And by the way, did you know that Alexander Graham Bell suggested that “Ahoy” be used as the greeting when answering the telephone before Thomas Edison’s “Hello” finally stuck?
Thanks for being here. Teach. Learn. Enjoy!

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