Once Upon a Rhyme - One Week, Three Lives, Three Deaths, A Lifetime in Limericks

Antony L Saragas

Book Cover



    Core Theme














    We question our usefulness, our course, and our future. We wonder about our significance. This book poses the question we ignore through activity, defy with arrogance, or accept as unanswerable: "What's the point?" In the vein of "It's a Wonderful Life," this books reminds that life is worth living.

    Target Audiences

    Age: 18-34,35-54,55+

    Target Gender: Universal


    Fictional small town in Kentucky

    Based on a True Story


    Publishing Details

    Status: Yes: with a Publisher

    Publisher: Archway Publishing

    Year Published: 2020

    Starting Description

    Once Upon a Rhyme details a week in early February in the life of Dylan, known as ‘Oskie’, a forty-year-old who has recently lost his Father, Hollis. During the week, Oskie navigates highs and lows as he tries to reconcile the person he was, with the person he knows he should be.

    Ending Description

    Trying to make sense of it all, the story culminates with Oskie's confronting hard lessons on loss, love, and purpose. The thread throughout is a book of limericks left by Hollis, almost as Banquo's Ghost, leading Oskie - sometimes reluctantly or even resentfully - to his needed answers.

    Group Specific

    Little League Baseball and high school sports coaches and players very prevalent. Legal system (juvenile court) also very prevalent/involved.

    Hard Copy Available



    ISBN-10 : 1480894192 ISBN-13 : 978-1480894198

    Mature Audience Themes

    Information not completed

    Plot - Other Elements

    Coming of Age,Happy Ending,Meaningful Message,Philosophical Questions

    Plot - Premise

    Internal Journey/Rebirth,Tragedy

    Main Character Details

    Name: Dylan, known as "Oskie"

    Age: 40

    Gender: Male

    Role: Skeptic

    Key Traits: Masculine,Modest,Lone Wolf,Strong Moral Code,Sarcastic,Romantic,Sophisticated,Selfless,Honorable,Educated,Faithful,Empathetic,Complex,Engaging

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Dustin Taylor, known as "D-Tay"

    Age: 40

    Gender: Male

    Role: Sidekick

    Key Traits: Adventurous,Masculine,Aspiring,Charming,Complex,Confident,Decisive,Selfless,Empathetic,Engaging,Outspoken,Funny,Skillful,Faithful,Sarcastic,Educated,Honorable,Leader,Strong Moral Code

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Hollis

    Age: 70

    Gender: Male

    Role: mentor

    Key Traits: Masculine,Complex,Empathetic,Faithful,Skillful,Visionary,Educated,Honorable,Leader,Sophisticated

    Additional Character Details

    Name: Elly

    Age: 37

    Gender: Female

    Role: tempter

    Key Traits: Charming,Badass,Confident,Sexy,Blunt,Engaging,Funny,Romantic,Seductive

    Development Pitch

    This is “It’s a Wonderful Life” for 2021, the perfect encouragement for those who need lifted spirits amid troubling times. It is ALL packed in there, not just catastrophe, but every relatable element of the misery of the human condition, culminating with important reminders of (1) why we carry on despite those troubles, (2) the importance of friends and family, and (3) that while life is hard, the good things we find along the way are worth it. In a plot covering just one week of life, a 40 year-old, quintessential everyman confronts the major traumas and concerns common to all of us. Burdened by the convergence of memories, grief, and self-doubt at his father’s recent death, the man tries to make sense of it all and answer life’s ultimate question, one we often ignore or accept as unanswerable in the face of constant battering despite our best efforts: “What’s the point?” Following a book of limericks left by his father, the week covers emotional flashbacks of great trauma - including deaths of his mother and best friend - balanced by enjoyable memories of childhood and hope unfettered by adult experience. Meanwhile, his present emotional rollercoaster unfolds with dips into child neglect and suicide amidst the high of newfound love. Overlaying the events are also global themes on mental health and social responsibility during troubled times in an unsettled world, foremost whether empathy for others as a cure for the world's ills is cost effective.




    A 40-YO man's depression gets more evident after his father passes and he finds his diary of limericks. As he reads his dad's poems and hears his friend's encouragements, the man finally decides to give his life a chance and starts over with a new mindset.

    Overall Rating


    Point of View


    Narrative Elements

    Authors Writing Style: FAIR

    Characterization: GOOD

    Commerciality: FAIR

    Franchise Potential: FAIR

    Pace: FAIR

    Premise: GOOD

    Structure: GOOD

    Theme: GOOD

    Accuracy of Book Profile

    Yes, the book profile is accurate.

    Draw of Story

    The premise: a 40-year-old struggling with grief finds a book of limericks from his deceased father that helps him move on.

    Possible Drawbacks

    The pace is very slow, maybe more action could be added to make it more engaging.

    Use of Special Effects


    Primary Hook of Story

    The premise

    Fanbase Potential

    Not this type of story.

    Awards Potential

    No, not as it is.

    Envisioned Budget


    Similar Films/TV Series


    What’s New About the Story

    The main character. He's a depressed single father of an adopted boy who's ready to listen to his friends. He could be more unique if we saw his bad side, too (maybe he's a jerk to someone trying to help him? Maybe lets someone down?). Also, the story could be enriched with more visual descriptions.

    Lead Characters

    He's a single adoptive father; He's followed his father's steps without thinking about what made him happy; His story arc;

    Uniqueness of Story

    It's an interesting story but not to everyone's taste. It could reach more people if more external beats happened.

    Possible Formats

    Film: Indie, Streaming

    Analyst Recommendation



    To be adapted to the audiovisual media, this story would need to be altered to have more external story beats.

    Tips for Improvement

    Increase the story pace.


    When 40-year-old depressed Oskie finds his recently deceased father's diary of limericks, he has an opportunity to take a hard look at his own life. Will Oskie finally start living life fully?

    What We Liked

    We liked the main character and the premise; the arc is fulfilling and the ending is hopeful. A story needed for the post-pandemic world.

    Film: "Once Upon a Rhyme" is about Oskie's internal process of grieving and moving on. This can be great material for a film like "The Father" or "Manchester by the Sea," where it's slowly revealed the protagonist's actions are connected to deep trauma. The characters are interesting and the arc is fulfilling, being a story that can engage adults going through a hard period of a pandemic.

    TV: This is a story about a lifetime of memories, and there's always more to add. "Once Upon a Rhyme" could be greatly adapted to an independent TV drama, with each episode being themed around one of Hollis's poems and exploring how each character deals with that theme.

    Key points:
    The premise;
    The protagonist;
    The finding of the limerick diary;
    The sport-filled background;
    The interesting supporting characters.


    After losing his father, Hollis, the month before, 40-year-old Dylan “Oskie” goes back to his childhood home to prepare the house for sale. As he peruses old objects, his mind is flooded by memories from when he was the same age as his son, Turbo. But when Oskie finds an old diary of limericks he didn’t know existed, he reads it immediately. Turbo joins him with curiosity but soon falls asleep, leaving his dad to reminisce alone.

    Most of the memories in Oskie’s mind revolves around sports since both Oskie and Hollis were aficionados. He remembers the birth of his younger sister, Belle, and the happy life the family of four had. The times he spent playing with other kids and enjoying his father; he definitely considers this past life perfect.

    Linda Baker, an old family friend and now realtor, arrives. She acknowledges Oskie’s tough task to put away all of Hollis’s belongings as they walk around the house, discussing details of putting the house for sale. Oskie reminisces about his childhood playing with her son, Pookie, his best friend from ages 6 to 12, and aunt Linda, his second mother. Turbo wakes up and shows the two a new poem he found in Hollis’s book, and the poem brings them memories of Pookie, now deceased. Linda and Oskie cry together. Linda leaves the house with the trusted mission of selling it.

    Oskie and Turbo meet two other childhood friends, now married: D-Tay and Mary Beth Baker. As they watch the Super bowl and eat Totchos, Mary Beth reads a poem from Hollis’s book about D-Tay. They all hold back tears at the sweet memory of their old coach. The group then heads to the Baker’s house to watch the rest of the game, a tradition belonging to their group of friends. By the time the game ends, before they all eat Linda’s famous meatballs, Oskie finds her reading another poem from Hollis’s book.

    At home, Turbo shares his own insecurities about playing football; Oskie tells him about his friends and helps him fall asleep. That triggers Oskie to remember his good friend Pookie, who played well in all positions, not only in football but also in life. Alone, Oskie falls asleep in his living room recliner.

    The next day, Oskie takes Turbo to practice and finds D-Tay, the coach, sad. D tells him about one of the students, Boo, from a poor housing community with a sad life story who the government now takes for adoption. Oskie promises to try to find him. Oskie goes to work at the courthouse, his father’s former office, and secretary, Veronica “Ronny.” She can tell he’s sad, not only with Hollis’s death but also struggling with his own purpose in life. She encourages him to date, but he insists the idea is far away.

    The idea doesn’t seem too far when he sees social worker Ellis Parker, who was assigned Boo’s case. She tells him relatives took in the younger siblings and that Boo will likely go to a foster home. She gives him her phone number so he and Coach D can visit Boo. At work, Oskie watches with pessimism as the system loses another kid to crime and jail. He struggles to find meaning in his work and his life as of now, but he tells D the news about seeing Boo, and the coach is satisfied.

    Oskie and D-Tay meet Elly to visit Boo. As D and Boo spend time together, Oskie waits for them observing Elly from afar; they leave, with the promise they’ll visit again soon. In the car, D has a breakdown remembering his own destiny as a child and the important role Hollis played in his life.

    Oskie tells Belle about the book, and she tries to cheer up her older brother. Belle joins Oskie to watch Turbo’s game; they win, and they celebrate with D-Tay and Mary Beth. When Oskie and Turbo wake up to a snowy day, they change their morning routine to walk their dog, C.P; Oskie thinks of Hollis’s life lessons.

    At work, Elly talks to Oskie about Boo and D-Tay. They discuss the possibility of D. actually taking in Boo, and Oskie decides to have a talk with D. The two arrange to meet on Saturday to talk more. Oskie thinks about asking Elly out but ultimately can’t. Oskie talks to D. about it, and he immediately agrees; D. also teases Oskie about Elly, encouraging his friend to search for happiness and open up to other people.

    Oskie takes the day off on the date that would be his deceased mother’s birthday and thinks about all the memories he has of her. At a game, he watches Turbo and D-Tay play and coach; he finally asks Elly out to a basketball game, and she says yes. Belle celebrates her brother’s step forward. D’s team loses the game, but D-Tay is still happy because of Oskie’s and Elly’s date.

    Oskie and D-Tay visit Boo at the foster children’s house. On their way there, D and Oskie have a tough conversation about Oskie’s depression—D encourages him to seek happiness and not waste his chance with Elly. At the foster home, Oskie talks to Boo while D. and Elly finalize the adoption paper. D. confirms that he and Mary Beth will adopt Boo, and everyone is happy.
    Oskie and Elly go on a date, and everything goes well. They have a good time, and Oskie feels he likes Elly a lot. The date ends with a kiss and a promise for more dates; Oskie is genuinely happy.

    Oskie and Turbo go back to Hollis’s house, now sold by Linda. Linda talks to Oskie, and he’s finally ready to talk about Linda’s son and Oskie’s best friend’s, Pookie’s death. Linda tells him about finding joy and working to have things done in life. She talks about Hollis and Annie and any parent’s wish: to see their kid happy. She reads Oskie another limerick from Hollis, one she had seen before Hollis passed. She concludes by saying that if Oskie can find his peace, he will give everyone around him their peace as well.

    Alone with his dog, Oskie concludes it’s time for him to start living his life. He writes a letter to his parents and vows to start over, a new year, a new life for him and those around him. Oskie writes a limerick of his own about going forward and living your life fully.

    About The Author

    Antony L. Saragas is a father, coach, attorney, judge, and writer. He has worked as a sports journalist and radio broadcaster and founded the Harlan County Boys & Girls Club in his hometown of Harlan, Kentucky. He now lives in Savannah, Georgia, where in addition to his career and writing, he enjoys any time with his kids, any nearby weight room, and any sunrise at the beach. His newest venture is The Average Man's Adventures podcast. He is the author of Tales of a Small-Town King, which was published in 2018.