Kai Lüftner – Delving into a creative mind
With his many tattoos, black beard and burly appearance, you might expect Kai Lüftner to be a biker – but in fact he’s a passionate children’s author with a vivid imagination. The 39-year-old from Köpenick in Berlin has a CV that looks like something from the Yellow Pages: pizza delivery guy, social worker, cafe owner, bouncer, musician, radio editor and even a successful author for various comedians. Lüftner has had a colourful life. Today he prefers to call himself a ‘creative spirit who has chosen children as his target audience’. It is a fitting description. In his latest trilogy Das Kaff der guten Hoffnung, he transports readers young and old to an unusual world with plenty of chills, excitement and wordplay on the way.
When asked to explain the motto of the series, he instinctively says, ‘Be as you are!’ The last instalment was published on 1 March 2015. The trilogy is about an orphan called Kalle Ohnenamen. He is looking for his big brother, who was last seen in a children’s home. Kalle has already seen 136 orphanages from the inside and now ends up in number 137 – a place in Little Calabria with a name that translates as ‘good hope’. There he finds something he didn’t expect at all – friends!
Kalle goes on exciting adventures with Röschen, a girl with a face like thunder, the stuttering Theobald, and Magda with her monobrow and hands like JCB shovels. The weird and wonderful collection of personalities created by Lüftner are a far cry from the usual characters found in children’s literature. Each one is unique, something of a go-getter and even a bit cheeky. (RM)
How did you come up with the idea to write books for children?
The day came when I had to (and wanted to) do something I’d never dared to do before: write for children. I was worried it might cause me to lose street cred with people like my friends who are into martial arts. But that was nonsense – exactly the opposite was true! And actually, as I’ve come to realise after three years in this business, you’re not only writing for children at all. My readers include parents and other adults who still know what it feels like to be a child.
When did you create Kalle from ‘ Das Kaff der guten Hoffnung’? What was your inspiration?
I found it fascinating that a child with no particular distinguishing characteristics or great prospects in life could inspire and change others with his sheer willpower, persistence and self-belief. I love Kalle as a character because he’s so special. He gives these other ‘kids with faults’ a sense of belonging.
Kai Lüftner was born in Berlin in 1975 and studied social education. Today he makes a living as an editor of audio books and as a director. He also writes material for comedians, does some acting, and writes books for children and teenagers. He lives with his wife and son in Köpenick, which he believes is the nicest district in Berlin.
TOP 5 - KAI LÜFTNER'S CHILDREN'S BOOK TIPS
SPUK UNTERM RIESENRAD by C.U. Wiesner
Recommended age: 6 to 8 years, Illustrator: Wolfgang Freitag
This has been one of my all-time favourite books since I was a boy. It’s bursting with wit and weirdness, combining a fairy tale and urban crime for kids. In some respects, it forms a bridge between literature for children and adults.
DETEKTIV PINKY by Gert Prokop
Recommended age: 12 years and up, Illustrator: Klaus Vonderwerth
Several short detective stories that revolve around a boy from an orphanage. He is so clever that he can easily take on any adult. I was very impressed as a boy!
THE MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY by Trenton Lee Steward
Recommended age: 10 years and up, Illustrator: Diana Sudyka
This is the greatest series of books there is about special children! The writing is simply wonderful. It’s odd, unique and should definitely be much better known!
RICO, OSKAR UND DIE TIEFERSCHATTEN by Andreas Steinhöfel
Recommended age: 10 years and up, Illustrator: Peter Schössow
This book elevates Andreas Steinhöfel to the status of one of the undisputed champions of writing books for children. The story is brilliantly constructed with some fantastic neologisms. The quality is enviable!
KAI AUS DER KISTE: EINE GANZ UNGLAUBLICHE GESCHICHTE by Wolf Durian
Recommended age: 10 years and up, Illustrator: Philip Waechter
It’s not only the protagonist’s name that puts this book in my list, but also the fact that this children’s crime story simply has everything a little scallywag could wish for: adventure, horror, a big-city vibe ... I’d definitely recommend it!