Wah Wah Retraces her steps | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Wah Wah Retraces her steps

19 March, 2023

In a new children’s book, hot off the press, Daphne Charles tells the story of Wah Wah de Haawa, a little rabbit that finds herself in a spot of trouble. But, keeping her wits about her, she manages to find herself out of it by retracing her steps.

The inspiration for the story comes from the author’s daughter who, when she was around two and a half years old, was playing with a set of keys. “After about twenty minutes, when we were looking for the keys and asked her about it, she stood up with great purpose, and said, “Baby take, come here, go there, sit here, go there, here key!” (not necessarily in that order) and fetched the keys from under the bed!” says Daphne.

“I remember being so impressed with a little one’s ability to retrace her steps, leading to actually finding the key, that I overlooked the fact that she had clearly flung the keys under the bed.

“It reminded me that we can actually try retracing our steps to find solutions to some of our problems, at least, and I thought to myself that it would be a good problem-solving skill to talk about with children.”

First draft

A couple of days later, Daphne sat down with this idea in mind and the words spilled out. It obviously needed some re-working later, but the ideas were flowing and the first draft of the story was done.

“At the time of writing this, my daughter’s bed-time ritual involved reading about four to five books a night and we were quite heavily into Dr. Seuss and Julia Donaldson, so somehow verse was the preferred form at the time,” explains Daphne. And so is her debut children’s book.

‘Wah Wah Retraces Her Steps’ is a story in rhyming verse that captures the child’s imagination with illustrations by Champa Gunawardana, who has illustrated a number of books for overseas children’s writers. As a children’s book, her cute illustrations play a big part in the story telling.

As for the name behind the name, Daphne said, “‘Wah Wah’ is the name they would playfully call our daughter when they were still expecting her, in anticipation of all the crying she was bound to do once she arrived.”

“I wanted the story to be Sri Lankan, with local names, characters and objects from the environment that local readers could easily identify with,” says Daphne. “Wah Wah Retraces Her Steps is a book that is ideally read out loud to kids and I feel it can open the way for conversation about how we face issues in life.”

Daphne Charles is a mom to a constantly-chattering six-year-old, who, Daphne says, teaches her everything she really needs to know about life.

Daphne teaches speech and drama and communications skills, sending students for local and Trinity College exams. She also works part-time as an examiner for The Institute of Music, Speech and Speaking Skills.

MA in Education

Daphne’s an old girl of Methodist College, Colombo 3 where she joined in Grade one and continued right up to her A/Levels. She then joined the University of Colombo where she earned her BA in English and then on to the University of Northampton for her MA in Education.

Daphne says she has also won a couple things along the way, but really, her biggest achievement as a teacher (and she really mean this), is when my students do well. Whether it’s reflected in their grades, growth in confidence or a liking for literature, her heart is full even to see subtle changes in them.

“My inspiration has been my late father, Fr. Joseph Charles, for inculcating the love of the written and spoken word in me,” says Daphne, “He would read and sing to my brother; make-up stories and songs. He played a huge role in shaping our love for stories and music. I firmly believe that parents’ involvement in their children’s love for reading is of utmost importance.”

She surrounds herself with inspirational people and is grateful to all the teachers who patiently worked with her and says she has talented friends, who she is often in awe of.


Her literary inspirations and favourites include Dickens, Maupassant, Saki, Wodehouse, Khaled Hussein, Carl Muller, Naomi Munaweera, Shyam Selvadurai, to name a few.

“There are some writers whose work I re-read for either their entertaining, powerful or compelling story-telling,” says Daphne.

“As a teacher and reading to other kids, I often opted for the Horrid Henry kind of books, which I thought were great fun to read and for my purposes,” says Daphne.

“There was much to dramatise in them. But obviously, becoming a mother changes you. Having to choose books that create a conversation and address real issues, and more importantly, ways of dealing with the challenges and issues with empathy and kindness becomes important. It’s also important that the lessons are subtle and not put across in a way that’s pedantic and too preachy.”

Daphne has a few more first drafts of Wah Wah’s adventures, that include empathy, resilience and an acceptance of difference as themes, inspired again by real issues that cropped up in conversation with her little girl. These are all issues that little kids deal with in their own way, and if we can get them thinking about these from a young age, there is potential to point them in the right direction, allowing them to negotiate their way in the world with more compassion.

Here’s hoping that we see more adventures of Wah Wah de Haawa in the near future!