Once Upon a Cold Winter Night…

What a Hippopota-Mess Cover

Winter Greetings!
I’d like to share one of my stories from What a Hippopota-Mess! (compliments of Orca Book Publishers) about a moose who turns blue from the cold. What’s ‘Muckles’ the moose to do when sub-zero temperatures of the Yukon are totally ruining his life? How will he survive year after year? Will he ever be warm again?  Well, put on a fire, curl up with the kids and read all about it. Don’t miss all the fun facts at the end.

Blue Muckles Brown                

by Pat Skene

Away up in the cold white north,
nearby a Yukon town,
there was a moose out on the loose,
they called Blue Muckles Brown.

Folks recognized him right away
because his hide was blue.
His antlers drooped with clumps of ice.
He shivered all day through.

Now, moose lore spread for miles around
about this blue-moose sight.
And tales were told how he was brown,
but changed to blue one night.

They say it happened when the land
was gripped by bitter frost.
When piercing purple skies grew dark,
poor Muckles – he got lost.

Continue reading “Once Upon a Cold Winter Night…”

Halloween Story for Home and Classroom

Rhyme Stones CoverHave you ever met a Halloween witch who couldn’t fly on a broom? What weird things do witches stir into their cauldrons? How did all these scary Halloween traditions get started in the first place?

To answer these questions, I would like to share a story from one of my books.

Halloween for Ernestine is one of six rhyming stories from Rhyme Stones. Read, Print, and Enjoy! (Compliments Orca Book Publishers.) Don’t miss the Interview with Ernestine and cool Halloween facts at the end.


It happened every Halloween –
a little witch called Ernestine
was so afraid of being seen
because she couldn’t fly.
She tried to fly.
Could she be shy?

She sneaked about her witch’s lair,
pretending that she wasn’t there.
She hid behind her orange chair.
But all the witches knew.
She knew they knew.
What could she do?

Continue reading “Halloween Story for Home and Classroom”

A Rhyming Story for Summer Reading

Welcome Parents, Grandparents, Teachers, and everyone in between. 
‘Tis the season for vegetable gardens to burst forth with delicious bounty, while we battle voracious bugs and vicious weeds!  So here is a rhyming story for kids – all about the joys and agonies of summer gardening. And there’s some real cool facts at the end of the story too.

So go ahead –  read, rhyme, recite and share, share, share…

Monster Lunch CoverAn excerpt from Monster Lunch

Written by Pat Skene, Illustrated by Graham Ross
(Orca Book Publishers)  ages 6 -10



Please excuse my attitude,
but you can keep your garden-food.
I think planting is a bore,
when you can buy stuff at the store.

One day my dad said with a grin,
“C’mon, let’s put a garden in.”
I dragged the tools down from the shelf
and kept my feelings to myself.

We found a sunny garden spot.
I worked till I was sweaty hot.
We turned the soil to make a bed.
“Now add manure,” my father said.

“Phew!” I cried. “Give me a break!”
He laughed and handed me the rake.
I sniffed and sniffed but must admit,
it didn’t even stink a bit.

We put in rows and rows of seeds.
Dad said, “That’s what our garden needs.”
We planted seedlings in the ground,
and wrapped some wire all around.

I moaned and groaned till we were done.
My dad said, “Next comes all the fun.
I’ll make a gardener of you yet.”
I answered, “Right! You wanna bet?”

I dug my heels into the dirt
and wiped my hands across my shirt.
Now what’s a grumpy-dude to do?
I didn’t have a garden-clue!

For weeks I battled wicked weeds.
I shrieked at slugs and centipedes.
The sprinkler hose had sprung a leak.
My garden-life was looking bleak.

Then day by day, the changes came.
And things no longer looked the same.
Who knew that peas could climb a pole?
Or squash would grow out of control?

We built a trellis with some twine.
I helped my dad with the design.
We scooped up radishes and beans,
picked carrots, beets and lettuce greens.

Our yard looked like a grocery mart.
I could have used a shopping cart.
Tomatoes overflowed my pot,
and suddenly, I had a thought.

“It’s pizza night,” I told my dad.
I showed him all the stuff I had.
Red peppers, onions, herbs and more.
“Let’s make a pizza like the store!”

We made the dough – it was a breeze.
I cooked the sauce and added cheese.
I gave the first slice to my dad.
It was the best he ever had!

So now this grumpy garden-dude,
is really into growing food.
I grew a cuke – big as a log!
I grew a gourd – shaped like a hog!

I tried to plant a pizza crust,
But all I got was dirt and dust.
Now just how tricky could it be
to grow a pepperoni tree?

Digging up the Cool Facts

1. The radish wins.

Many gardeners say that radishes are the fastest growing vegetable. Most veggies grow in about forty-five days. But radishes can go from seed to your lunch box in under one month. Most radishes are crunchy and hot. Radish juice is supposed to be good for sore throats and colds. So the next time you have the sniffles, try squeezing a radish.

2. The eyes have it.

The only way to grow a potato is to plant a potato. You need a potato with “eyes” on the skin. These eyes are potato buds, and they grow new potatoes when you plant them. Just cut a potato into four pieces. Then put the pieces in the ground with the eyes pointing up. You’ll soon be digging up – one potato, two potato, three potato, four…and maybe more.

3. The lady and the toad.

There are lots of bugs and critters lining up to chomp away on your garden goodies. But not all of them want to eat your vegetables. Ladybugs and toads actually help your garden. They eat the pesky bugs that like to feast on your veggie plants. So give these two friendly helpers a big lunchtime welcome.

4. Grub in a tub.

If you haven’t got a spot for a garden plot, use a pot. Almost anything can be used as a container. Look around for cans, boots, barrels and maybe even an old bathtub. You’ll need an adult to help you fill the containers with soil and get them ready for planting. Cherry tomatoes, strawberries and peas would make delicious snacks-in-a-pot, don’t you think?

5. More food for thought.

Garden-lore has it that an herb called basil will keep witches away – even on Halloween. And did you know that both vampires and mosquitoes don’t like garlic? Come to think of it…vampires and mosquitoes have a lot in common, don’t they? So remember: Eat garlic tonight, the stinky delight. And smell as you might, you won’t get a bite!

Grumpy Garden Dude is just one of the six rhyming stories in Monster Lunch.  Each story poem is followed by a list of cool facts for kids. 

Thanks for reading, simply for the fun of it!

I’ll see you between the lines.

Follow me on Twitter @PatSkene


The Sewer in the Sewer – Fun with Heteronyms

images-3Double trouble: I’m sorry to subject you to the subject of the english language when you’re probably having a nice soft day. But sometimes I think the word-inventors were verbally insane or just plain lazy. Why else would we have so many words with the same spelling but different pronunciations and meanings? Was the project team simply lacking in brain cells and imagination? Or did they become bored halfway through the job? Perhaps it was an early attempt at recycling to save endangered letters?

These words are called heteronyms.  To better explain what I’m on about, there is no time like the present to present you with my story. Happy reading!

spool threadThe Sewer in the Sewer

Once upon a time, there was a Polish seamstress who liked to stay home and polish her husband’s boots. Okay, so she wasn’t very liberated, but she was working on it. She was a lovely little woman who would shed a tear every time she saw a tear in her man’s work clothes, hanging in the shed. Wasting no time, she would always repair to her sewing room to repair the damage. The little sewer also liked to grow vegetables and could produce lots of produce for her family. But she drew the line at taking out the refuse and would refuse to carry out the garbage. And try as she might, she could never teach the sow to sow. But that’s a story for another time.

Now despite her protests, every week on garbage day, her husband would lead her to the trash containers and tell her to get the lead out, as he went off to work. And by the way, he resented the fact that she didn’t know how to row a boat and she wouldn’t let him teach her. But again I digress, as that has nothing to do with my story.

Anyway, one day as she was reluctantly hauling the garbage bins to the curb, a dove suddenly dove into her hair. She screamed and ran into the street, where the poor little sewer fell into an open sewer. She tried to pull herself out using her scarf, but the wind was too strong inside the tunnel and she couldn’t hold the scarf steady enough to wind it around the pipes. Then suddenly in the street above her, she heard an invalid arguing with a policeman about an invalid parking spot. She screamed for help and thankfully, they were close enough to rescue her and close the sewer cap to prevent others from falling in.

Now while all this was happening, her husband had been seconded to a new job, voted on and seconded by the manager at the construction company. He was doing some roof repairs at the Hot Cactus Resort when his cell phone rang. Upon hearing his wife’s distress, he instantly made the decision to desert his job in the desert and rush to his little sewer’s side. He was upset to see that she had hurt her arm in the fall, so he lovingly wound a bandage around the wound.

From that day on, never again did he object to her objections about taking out the garbage, as this had become the object of her near demise. And never again did they row about him teaching her how to row a boat either. So from that day forward, the little Polish seamstress came to her senses and said she would never polish his boots again either. Amen to that!

I’m delighted to report they lived happily ever after.

See you between the lines,
Follow me on Twitter @PatSkene

The Tradition of Oral Storytelling

14134388517_b65d0cae99_zOnce Upon a Time Circa 1950

I think I have always been a storyteller. When I was a child, even before we had electricity, I looked forward to the evenings with my family when we would sit around the kitchen table and talk about the day’s events.

I can still see the warm glow from the gas lanterns casting shadows on the walls. Sometimes I would make up wild adventures about a ferocious alligator living under our dock. Or scare my sisters with tales of a mysterious creature lurking in the icehouse in our backyard.

That was all before hydro wires reached my house and “I Love Lucy” invaded my living room, and when Apple was still just a fruit.

Tuning Out is Way Too Easy

I believe that television and other electronic mediums so readily available now in every home, have contributed to shutting down the human voice. As many of our children are growing up on a diet of bland TV sitcoms and computer games as their intellectual junk food, they become desensitized to the tug of their own emotions.

It’s very hard to return to the traditions of oral communications in a world of sound bites, where we simply ‘turn off’ or ‘tune out’ if we don’t like what we hear or see. It’s much too easy for children to transfer this behavior into real life situations.

 Stories Help to Connect the Dots

It hurts my heart to know that oral storytelling is becoming a dying art for many families. In my view, it’s the most practical and natural means of talking about ordinary or profound matters that would otherwise never be discussed.

It’s a way to teach children and adults how to listen respectfully to each other’s voices and to feel connected by hearing our own feelings expressed by others. And as sure as a love of stories is connected to a love of reading…oral storytelling is connected to building confidence and self-esteem in children.

Now how cool is that?

When a Story is More Than a Story

It’s my belief that teaching the art of oral storytelling is an investment in the futures of our children and grandchildren. It gives them a basic training in sequencing events, and organizing thoughts and experiences into chunks; an invaluable skill to have at any age. And it teaches them how to listen and be heard; a basic ability so many adults have never mastered.

Children tell stories as a way to solve problems and understand the world around them. If you want to know what your child is thinking about, listen to their stories. So maybe it’s time to put away the tablets, cell phones and laptops and let our imaginations do the talking.

Welcome to Storytelling Boot Camp and a Few Creative Exercises 

  1. Young children love to hear stories about themselves, especially when they were babies. Repeat the stories often and ask them to tell you the stories back.
  2. Have the child “picture read” from a favourite book; don’t read the words. The child will go from page to page telling you the story from what they see.
  1. Write story starter ideas on strips of paper and create a story jar. Take turns choosing from the jar to tell your stories. (IE: If I had a magic carpet, I would…)
  1. Tell them lots of stories from your childhood, and add funny details that will appeal to young listeners. They will love to hear the shenanigans you got up to.
  1. Ask the child to choose 3 things they want in a story. (IE; a bear, a kite and a boy.) Make up a tale that includes these items, then ask the child to tell you a story with your 3 things.
  1. Put together a storytelling tray by gathering a variety of small objects from around the house. Take turns choosing an object from the tray and make-up stories about each of them.
  1. Have fun telling continued stories. This can be done with one of more children, as everyone adds a portion of the same tale as the story progresses.
  1. Create a magical space to tell your stories. This can be anywhere – like in a soft cozy chair, under a favorite tree or on a simple blanket on the floor. Special snacks can also set the mood.

The Hidden Rewards

Two of the most important skills we can have as adults, is our ability to adapt to change and be proficient in public speaking. It’s been said that some people would rather choose death over speaking in public! Now how silly is that?

By consistently developing our narrative skills from an early age, we become comfortable with shifting plots and thinking on our feet, as it were. And as we mature, we learn to embrace change and gain confidence in our ability to speak out and engage others.

These are huge life-skills that go a long way in helping children to become successful adults.

My Final Word on the Subject

Through oral storytelling exercises, I believe the power of language can help to develop thinkers, imaginers and status-quo shakers. By exercising our creative muscles from an early age, we learn to be inventive, ask questions and look outside the lines.

What a simple but powerful gift we can give to our children and grandchildren – a gift that will keep on giving for many years to come. Now isn’t that a legacy we would all like to leave behind?


See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Note: This post was originally created and published in Feb 2016 for www.sixtyandme.com


Are Your Children Internet Safe?

revenge_cover_300x375 Kelly smTeaching Through Story: What would happen if a slithering cyberwoozle oozed its way through the back door of your computer and in one big SLURP, you were sucked into the Internet?

Well, that’s exactly what happened to surf-suckers Henry and Fanny Farkenworth. Now with no way to get home, they’re in danger of being moofed and lost in cyberspace forever. Complete with purple murples, spamdunkers and pop-up hucksters, the net-lingo is fresh, cyber-cheeky and ripe for a now generation of kids, living in a universal world of computers.

What the experts are saying:
“Pat Skene’s delightful new story will not only help your child think more critically about their choices, but keep them engaged and entertained along the way. I highly encourage every parent to rush out and add Revenge of the Mad Hacker to their child’s reading list.  – Samantha Wilson, President, KIDPROOF CANADA

Check out the Exclusive Interview with the Mad Hacker at the end of the story…and the Safe-Surfing TIPS for Parents and Kids.

For ordering information, go to www.pressheretostartpublishing.com Ages 8-12

See you between the lines and on Twitter @PatSkene

Why is Rhyme Critical to Children’s Literacy?

Book with starsCan rhyme teach children the rhythm of speech?
Have you ever wondered why we can remember nursery rhymes from our childhood? What is it about well-written verse that stays with us like a favourite song? Why do we love reading the same rhyming poems and stories we read as a child – to our children and grandchildren? To answer these questions, we need to get to the nuts and bolts of it all.

Here are 5 things I love about rhyme:
1. The sounds taste delicious on our tongues when we read rhyme out loud.
2. When a story is told in rhyme, the words seem to dance between the lines.
3. We learn to ‘picture-read’ as the story springs to life through sound bites.
4. The anticipation of rhythmic patterns adds excitement to the experience.
5. The beat stays with us and makes us want to read it over and over again.

Instant recall: Whatever our reasons are for loving rhyme, research has shown that children form stronger affections toward characters when a story is told in verse. Rhyme has a way of wiring our brain receptors to the rhythm of speech, so we can remember the words well into our adult years. Now let me expand on some of the points I made above.

Continue reading “Why is Rhyme Critical to Children’s Literacy?”

10 Steps to Making Children Life-Long Readers


Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.
          – Margaret Fuller

What I Know: I am not a language expert, a teacher or professional speech therapist. But as an author and storyteller, I do know that speech is the foundation of all social life. Why then, do we take it for granted? Research proves that when pre-schoolers have difficulty with oral development, they could be experiencing an early symptom of reading disability. This is an important thing to know.

What this means: A child’s ability to read is an important predictor of later literacy development and potential for academic achievement. At no other time do they learn as much as in the first few years of life, so what can we do to help our children during these critical early years? I believe we should be reading out loud with our children everyday, to develop a love of language – together.

Getting hooked: Reading is a significant family activity that, unfortunately, seems to be losing its place of value in many homes. With the ubiquitous allure of the electronic world at our fingertips, it’s easy to fall prey to the ease, comfort and excitement of it all.  But are children losing the art of language because of it? And if so, how do we get them hooked on reading, instead of watching?

Let the reading begin: Most parents already know that any shared storybook reading between child and adult is an excellent way to promote emergent literacy. So how do we compete with the more seductive forms of family entertainment and increase a child’s motivation toward book-reading? A good start is to be pro-active and encourage the child to take an active role in the experience.

So What Can You Do? 

Continue reading “10 Steps to Making Children Life-Long Readers”