The latest book from Adam Kline ’94 begs to be read aloud.
When Adam Kline ’94 was a child, he looked forward to bedtime; in his family, the end of the day was synonymous with storytime. “My dad really embarked on a herculean mission to read me the ‘Lord of the Rings,’” Klein said, speaking with the Bulletin by phone from his home in Chicago. “I mean, that’s a pretty colossal undertaking for a parent to read those aloud. For a year or two, that’s how I fell asleep every night.” Kline, himself a father of two, ardently believes in the power of reading to his children. His latest book, “The Clockwork War” begs to be read aloud. The struggle between childhood friends Karlheinz “Karl” Indergarten (the masterful clockmaker’s apprentice) and Leopold Croak (the business tycoon with a tragically lost imagination) enchants the reader with beautifully rhythmic language.
The story originated as a screenplay that made the Black List (the famed annual survey of film industry executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays). The production house that initially optioned the script to develop it into a stop-motion feature then decided to move away from animation for a time. This decision spurred Kline to rewrite his script as a book, but as he approached publishers, he received concerning news.
“These editors said, ‘look, it’s a beautiful book, but it really needs to be read aloud. No kindergartener, no first grader, no second grader can read this book themselves.’ I said, ‘well that’s sort of the point. I think it should be read aloud, I think parents should be reading to their children.’ All these editors told me that that does not happen. I said, ‘well I read to my kids and all my friends read to their kids’ and they said, ‘well people say that but they don’t really do it.’ I was actually quite offended at this notion that verbal storytelling is dead,” he explained.
So, Kline set out to publish another way. “Partially for myself and partially for my kids, and very much to make a point that reading to your kid is a wonderful experience. I tried very hard in the book to make it fun, not just for the kid hearing the story, but for the storyteller too.”
Kline successfully financed the project on Kickstarter (he raised $21,366 though the crowdfunding site) and “With Kind Regards from Kindergarten” was published in 2015. In 2018, Insight Editions picked up the book and published it under the new title “The Clockwork War.”
Throughout his journey, main character Karl sets out to save a single (magical) tree. With this in mind, Kline was thrilled to find a publisher that had a strong devotion to environmental sensibility. Insight Editions proudly plants two trees for every tree used in the production of their books through their partnership with Roots of Peace.
Kline’s story presents Karlheinz as a quiet hero who encourages simplicity, beauty and maintaining our possessions and relationships with love. In Kline’s own words, Karl is a role model who is “generous and humble and forthright with unconditional love for all children and the environment. … Leopold Croak minus his imagination reflects the worst American values — wealth first and foremost.”
In tackling these complex issues within his book, Kline reminds his readers that children can oftentimes be vastly underestimated, both by the publishing industry and the adults around them. “We decided from the outset that we weren’t going to shy away from the dark and the bleak, the grim and the dirty, because that’s the environment that Karl has to fix.”
It’s a world that needs a few more heroes, added Kline:“I wanted to show my kids that you can win through creativity and through generosity. It’s not always about morphing into the Hulk or putting on the suit of armor that lets you fly. I love my superheroes but I tried to invent a different kind of hero.”
Karl triumphs through his kindness. His journey is not without sadness and difficulty, but throughout the pages of “The Clockwork War,” the reader feels connected — not only to the characters, but also to the process. Just as Karl shares his talents and his love, “The Clockwork War” presents an opportunity to share a story in a world not so far from ours. “I’m still drawing influence from what I read as a child,” said Kline, “so whether it’s ‘The Wind in the Willows’ or ‘Narnia’ or Tolkien, I still reread those books every year so that I remember what really made an impact on me when I was eight or ten or twelve.”
The book has come full circle and is now on a journey to the big screen through Fox Animation/Blue Sky Studios, with Mark Osborne (‘Kung Fu Panda’ and ‘The Little Prince’) on board to direct/produce. Kline said he hopes to spread the values of Karlheinz Indergarten even further through film, and, in the process, keep the tradition of verbal storytelling very much alive.
Allen B Ballard ’52, “Keep on Moving! An Old Fellow’s Journey into the World of Rollators, Mobile Scooters, Recumbent Trikes, Adult Trikes and Electric Bikes” (Christopher Matthews Publishing). After being forced to stop driving at 85, Ballard explored a variety of possible mobility solutions. In this book he shares his findings, advice and adventurous spirit.
Seth Bernstein ’05, translator, “An Anti-Bolshevik Alternative: The White Movement and the Civil War in the Russian North” by Liudmila Novikova (University of Wisconsin Press). Bernstein has translated Novikova’s work from the original Russian into English. Her text pushes against the traditional narrative of the Russian Civil War by investigating the Arkhangelsk region in Northern Russia and the role the White Movement played in the struggle.
Leonard Felder PHD ’75, “The Dilemma of the 21st Century Male: Choosing Each Day Between Retro and Forward.” Felder draws on his 25 years of counseling experience, examining ways to approach everyday challenges in order to assist men who wish to alter their unproductive patterns and behaviors.
Daniel O. Holland ’61, “Down from the Mountain: Answering the Vision’s Call.” The last in a tetralogy of Western Historical Fiction, “Down from the Mountain” returns to the breathtaking world of Western Montana as the story of four generations comes to a conclusion. Available in eBook format only.
Rachel Kolar ’05, “Mother Ghost: Nursery Rhymes for Little Monsters” (Sleeping Bear Press). In this beautifully — somewhat creepily — illustrated children’s book, Kolar takes 13 classic nursery rhymes and gives them a Halloween makeover.
William R. Morrow, D.Min, LMFT ’58, “Reports from the Borderlands.” In this collection of articles written for his regular column in The Fort-Meyers News Press, Morrow explores his affinity for psychology and religion and the relationship the two have. Available in eBook format only.
Caleb Wilson ’02, “Polymer” (Eraserhead Press). The second book in Eraserhead Press’s New Bizarro Author Series 2018, “Polymer” is Caleb Wilson’s musically violent debut. The reader is treated to a castle filled with gothic imagination, twisted monsters, otherworldly action and the strangest ride of their lives as they and the people of Sickleburg frantically watch the spectacular hero that is Polymer.
Wade Newman ’78, “Final Terms: Revised Version — Limited Edition.” In his revised version of his 2013 book of poems, Wade Newman playfully tackles heartache, devotion and a new political sequence for this limited edition. Cover art by David Horwitz ’80.
Alexander M. Sidorkin and Mark K. Warford ’89, “Reforms and Innovation in Education: Implications for the Quality of Human Capital” (Springer). This book carefully investigates recent education reform in Russia and the US, discussing how these changes impact pedagogical and technological innovations. Besides co-editing the volume, Warford delves further into the discussion with his chapter “Educational Innovation Diffusion: Confronting Complexities.”
“The idea of all those monkeys in there being trained to work as monkey helpers seemed fanciful and unreal, like something you would see on the internet after you had watched the Japanese cat jumping out of the cardboard box. Laura kept the Primate Institute brochure by the bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night during those early days she would read it aloud to herself, the way she might, in another life, have read a fairy tale to a restless child who couldn’t sleep.”
Katharine Weber, “Still Life With Monkey” (Paul Dry Books). After a car accident results in Duncan’s paralysis and psychological trauma, a capuchin monkey helper enters his life. In her latest novel, Katherine Weber, Richard L. Thomas Visiting Professor of Creative Writing, tenderly investigates what it means to choose to live or die and how we grow through the changes we cannot control.
Editor’s Note: Any of the books mentioned here can be ordered through the Kenyon College Bookstore at shopkenyon.com.