He Couldn’t Find a Kids’ Book about Ithaca—So He Wrote One

Dave Walden, MBA ’10, pens a lively volume that takes two young travelers to Collegetown, hockey games, state parks, and more

By Melissa Newcomb

Dave Walden, MBA ’10, has fond memories of his time in Ithaca: hiking at Buttermilk Falls, cheering the Big Red in Lynah Rink, visiting the Farmers Market, and other activities enjoyed by Cornellians for generations.

But when he tried to find a children’s book about our beloved college town to share those happy days with his young son and daughter, he couldn’t find one.

So he decided to publish one himself, hiring a graphic designer to create the illustrations.

The front cover of "Lukas & Caelyn Go Explorin’ Ithaca" shows an illustration of two kids sitting next to a waterfall.

The result—Lukas & Caelyn Go Explorin’ Ithacais filled with colorful images and rhyming verse about such iconic spots as Collegetown, Cayuga Lake, Taughannock Falls, and the Johnson Museum.

It even covers events like Slope Day and the annual Harvard game in Lynah—plus such local notables as Cornell’s particle accelerator and the giant dinosaur on display at a nearby natural history museum.

Dave Walden sits on a bench with his two children
Walden with his kids (and literary muses).

Start on top of the Hill / And follow it down / You’ll find Ithaca Commons. / It’s the heart of this town,” he writes.

Fun boutiques, record shops, / Groovy bookstores and more. / Let’s try all the world cuisine. / There are restaurants galore.”

Walden—who now lives in Austin, TX, and works in the tech industry—had an exacting editor on the project: his now-six-year-old daughter.

“She gave me mostly positive feedback,” Walden says with a laugh. “It was fun watching her decide what looked good and what to change.”

Released in February 2024, the 34-page, softcover volume is available online (including at Amazon and Etsy, as well as the site Walden created for the book).

Walden had an exacting editor on the project: his now-six-year-old daughter.

It’s also sold at two downtown Ithaca retailers.

“When the first copy arrived, my wife, my kids, and I got in bed to do nighttime reading all together,” Walden recalls. “It was a great experience.”

An illustration of two kids walking through shops in Ithaca,
A spread is devoted to Cornell’s student enclave (with a sly homage to the much-missed Palms bar at far right).

He aims to take his family on a vacation to Ithaca one of these days, so his kids can visit the spots they’ve read (and helped write) about.

“Ithaca is such a unique place,” Walden observes. “It’s not easy to get to—but the location is one of the great parts about it.”

(All images provided.)

Published May 31, 2024


  1. Robert Keller, Class of 1970

    Great idea! I bought it to read to my grandchildren.

  2. Dhruv, Class of 2014

    Bought it to read to my daughter, can’t wait for it to arrive! Go Big Red!

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