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A Walk with Dada

A grandfather leads his grandson around their city, encouraging the little boy to appreciate how the individual parts make up the whole

Photo of Mir Khalid Ali
3 4

Written by

Let's go for a walk, little one.

It's too fine a morning to stay in bed!

Come along now and keep open your eyes, ears, and nose,

What you might see, hear or smell -- who knows?!

Our world is a wonder to behold, little one,

But to understand it, you must pay close attention.

All around us are the bits and pieces, patterns and shapes,

That form the greater whole

Look! What is that we see?

Circles in the cobblestone street,

Rectangles in the brick road,

Octagons that say 'STOP'!

Listen! What is that we hear?

'Chirp! Chirp! Chirp!' of birds,

'Woof! Woof! Woof!' of dogs,

'Toooon! Toooon! Toooon!' of a firetruck.

Sniff! What is that we smell?

Blooming flowers in our community garden,

Cupcakes baking at the bakery,

A barbecue at the block party.

That smells so good!

Then let's try a taste!

Salty pretzels, buttery popcorn,

Chicken and rice with some spice.

I just felt a raindrop! [illustration would show a raindrop falling on child's arm]

Ah ha! Let's watch and listen closely,

Even the rain has something to show and tell! [illustration would show a tessellation of falling raindrops]

Some shapes may be hard to understand,

With unusual loops and swirls, dashes and dots, [illustration would show a medley of scripts in different languages]

Some sounds may sound strange, [illustration would show people talking to each other in different languages]

With notes and tones you've never heard before,

But maybe we can ask for help? 

Or use technology in a pinch! [illustration would show a smartphone being used to translate a language]

Some shapes you may not see, 

But you may be the missing point. [illustration would show the child linking with others in a circle to form a circle]

Some music you may not hear, [illustration would show a noisy street]

But you may be the missing note! [illustration would show the child clapping along with a street music band]

Describe the intended vision for your early childhood book manuscript in 1-2 sentences

This book encourages children to pay attention to the world around them with the help of a loving adult relative. It helps them understand how small parts make up the whole, including how they themselves are an important part of the world around them.

Share your suggested book title

A Walk with Dada

How has this book been informed by early childhood language development research and evidence? (response minimum 250 Characters)

The book encourages a child to utilize all his/her senses, by highlighting what we see, hear, smell, etc. By using objects and concepts familiar to children -- e.g., shapes -- it invites them to see those objects around them and see how they connect to the greater world. It also plays on the children's game of "I Spy."

Please describe any familiarity you may have with Philadelphia and its residents? (optional question)

My family and I have been living in the Center City area of Philadelphia for the past 5 years. Both of my kids attend a Philadelphia public elementary school. My walks around Philadelphia marveling at the beauty of its historic architecture, its cobblestone streets, and brick roads heavily influenced my writing.

How have you crafted this manuscript to resonate with and/or reflect the experiences of those living in urban contexts? (optional question)

My manuscript celebrates the microcosmic aspects of a city; the opportunity that cities like Philadelphia provide to explore a medley of cultures and unique experiences. I've sought to represent this in multiple ways. Firstly, with the title itself: "Dada" means grandfather in Urdu, my family's native tongue. However, it's also a term used by people from other backgrounds for father or another relative. Additionally, in going around the city, the child and his Dada come across "unusual shapes" which are actually scripts of different languages; this is very common to see in a city like Philadelphia on storefronts in China Town, the Arab bakery, or the Indian restaurant.

Location: Country

United States

Location: State or Department


Location: City


Website URL (optional question)

Tell us more about you / your team

I am an avid traveler, blogger, and foodie. I immigrated to the US from Pakistan as a 7-year-old and grew up on a farm in a small town in Western Pennsylvania. Since then I've lived in Minneapolis, New York City, Dubai, Chicago, and now Philadelphia. Ever since I was a child, I have loved to read. I devoured books of all shapes and sizes. I'd pretty much read anything I got my hands on, including my female cousins' The Baby-Sitters Club series. Eventually, I started writing my own stories, secretly aspiring to emulate my heroes: Roald Dahl, Sid Fleischman, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Gertrude Warner, Lynn Reid Banks, R. L. Stine, and a whole bunch of others. I published my first book earlier this year and am working on several ideas for future books.

Multiple Choice - Have you been previously published (online, self-published, and print included)?

  • Yes

If yes, please list titles and publications.

The Jiu-Jitsu Ponytail (

Do you have an agent?

  • No

How did you hear about the Challenge? (optional question)

  • Direct email invitation

What best describes you? (optional question)

  • I am/we are creatives, writers, or artists


Join the conversation:

Photo of Marty lapointe-malchik

I love learning that Dada means grandfather in Urdu. All of the senses are beautifully depicted on this special walk in the city. Including the scripts is a nice way of noticing shapes that a young child would find interesting and definitely notice on a walk with a special grown up. Best of luck with your writing life and this challenge!

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