Science teacher Zany himself publishes the first of a series of books to help Arkansas kids make good choices

“Today I chose happy!” is a new children’s book written by Mountenberg’s “Obsessed, Life Out of the Box” writer Patti Farris. This is the #1 book in a series of stories told through the voices of colorful animal characters.

Just like in real life, no personality is perfect, and some days can be totally rotten. But in her words, “Smiling with choice makes the bad soon forget.”

In Book #1, Faris follows the daily activities of a pig named Petunia Bickle. Petunia and her friends in the woods educate readers about an amazing superpower that can turn what could have been a very bad day into “the best day ever!”: the superpower of “choice”.

Pickled petunia is a happy pig. Patti Faris is a happy storyteller. They share the same high energy, positive thinking, and determination to be able to get the most out of each day.

Faris is a middle school science teacher and mother of six who has spent several years planning and writing her entire series of children’s books. Each story shares a common theme of “Today I choose”. Book No. 1 consists of 48 pages. Includes an accompanying curriculum to help bring messages to life.

After retiring from 28 years as a full-time teacher at Fort Smith Public Schools and becoming a surrogate at the beginning of 2020, she began considering moving forward with publishing the initial book. And then, the arrival of Covid caused the teacher to kick her.

Believing that the world was shattered, and that children would be severely affected by the fallout, she decided to speed up her plan and publish Book #1. What better time to help children take advantage of “Today I’m Choosing Happy!”

Faris began making circles of schools, libraries, and libraries, sharing the story with a young audience.

pickled petunia

At such readings, she enters a room full of children, smiling a friendly and welcoming smile and her arm full of interesting props to engage inquisitive minds in her message. Immediately, she gathers her new young friends around a table or sits in a circle on the floor. As an engaging icebreaker, she begins with a game.

Then comes the introduction of Petunia Pickle, a star on her mind. This leads to the fun-filled activity day story for the fun character. Petunia and her friends will sing to the beat and dance to a fast beat, because every day they choose to be happy.

Throughout the reading, Faris pauses to interact with the children. You ask for their opinions on a particular statement Petunia Pickle makes or whether any of them enjoy the same activities as Petunia.

Introducing Petunia’s Friends cast, the group asks which of the characters share their interests or personalities. Children’s contributions make for a fun and thoughtful story.

At the conclusion of the reading, the knight sends the children to search for treasure. Can they find a specific item within the story? Those who find it are rewarded with a treat.

As a last activity, she instructed the kids to make a toy to take home. This will serve as a reinforcement to remind them how wonderful each one of them is, she says.

Faris plays her part when working with children she calls “young people” of any shape or size. Petunia Bickle can transform a knight herself when she says:

“I have friends who are skinny, dotted, and tall.

Furry friends, winged and colored –

I love them all!”

The appendix at the end of the book provides tools for parents, grandparents, and teachers – all adults – to use when reading Petunia Pickle’s story to children. Faris lists questions to ask about the story and suggests items that children might look for during their treasure hunt.

Omar in the making

Her childhood experiences prepared Faris to write books to educate young people about the keys to happiness.

Growing up in a home with an alcoholic father, she discovered a magical portal of escape to a happy place: her imagination. She learned that she can create imaginary worlds, complete with eccentric friends and in fantastic locations. The fantasy circus was her favorite haven. Here she can perform acrobatic performances and walk among exotic animals.

Her fantasy worlds helped isolate her from her broken home. These early mental forays spurred what became highly sophisticated creativity.

When she entered elementary school, Faris was diagnosed with visual perception problems that caused her difficulties in calculating and measuring distances, sometimes making her awkward and uncoordinated. Being different from others can be a real challenge for anyone, especially a child, but she says these experiences and how she learned to deal with them proved helpful when she started writing for children with problems of their own. She prepared the life lessons she had to learn to help others manage unexpected challenges.

To overcome her visual impairment, she was instructed to practice walking on a balance beam, and her father built one. Through self-discipline and hard work, she perfected her physical awkwardness and went on to excel in athletics. Achieving an elite level of athleticism, she earned a scholarship in gymnastics at Texas A&M University.

She says her childhood taught her the importance of taking responsibility for a problem and not letting it control you.

After graduating from college, Faris learned other lessons while raising her children and during nearly three decades of middle school science teaching. And she began to pump her creative imagination on paper. Her previous mental feats carried over to the written word. She often incorporates her life lessons into the stories, so the messages she hopes to convey will be unforgettable.

Another big influence was meeting and marrying Tommy Faris.

Faris laughs, “It was like a Super Girl meeting with a Jungle Boy.”

Tommy is yin to yang, and they are both very outgoing people. Their days are filled with hiking, biking, kayaking, and other activities. Both are determined to take life’s obstacles as challenges.

conscious choice

This combination of life experiences along with her scientific background helps her understand how life works or doesn’t work. Her book series seeks to educate young readers about the many choices they face every day, and the value of making conscious decisions, knowing that the way they respond provides a roadmap for their lives. Making the right choices will lead them to reach their desired destinations.

Faris understands how emotions can override the brain’s ability to make useful decisions, triggering an instinctive “fight or flight” response. However, she says, with training and discipline, a person can bypass the instincts that have been in the brain since the age of the caveman. We can learn to direct the brain to use the frontal lobe where complex, conscious decisions are made.

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She hopes that reading and listening to her stories will help children understand the power of informed decision-making so that they can act on it; With practice it can become second nature to children.

Inspired by the influences of life, its imaginative students, and loyal friends and family, Farris has developed a unique, energizing writing style that creates a humorous and sensitive approach to dealing with setbacks. She hopes young readers will find the carefree adventures of the characters enjoyable to read, while the subtle messages embedded in the tales inspire inner strength and a sense of self-worth, helping them deal with an often chaotic world.

“Today I chose happy!” Available for $12 plus $4 shipping and handling; To request a copy or book a reading, email Farris at or send a Facebook message at “Patti Farris Books”.

Bob Robinson author of “Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail” Bicycles to Route 66″ and “A Biking Guide to the Lake Michigan Trail.”

Exhibition: Patti Faris

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