‘Wacky’ science teacher self-publishes first in series of books to help Arkansas kids make good choices

“Today I choose Happy!” is a new children’s book written by self-proclaimed “wacky and off-the-beaten-track” author, Patti Farris of Mountainburg. This is Book #1 in a series of stories told through the voices of animal characters with colorful illustrations.

Like in real life, none of the characters are perfect, and some days can be pretty rotten. But as she says, “the smile by choice quickly makes you forget the evil”.

In Book #1, Farris follows the daily activities of a pig named Petunia Pickle. Petunia and her forest friends educate readers about an amazing superpower that can turn what could have been a really bad day into “The Best Day Ever!” : the superpower of “choice”.

Petunia Pickle is one happy pig. Patti Farris is a happy storyteller. They share the same energy, the same positive thinking and the same determination to make the most of each day.

A middle school science teacher and mother of six, Farris spent several years planning and writing her full series of children’s books. Each story shares a common theme of “Today I Choose”. Book No. 1 has 48 pages; it includes a companion program to help bring the messages to life.

After retiring from 28 years as a full-time teacher at Fort Smith Public Schools and becoming a substitute in early 2020, she began thinking about moving forward with the publication of the initial book. And then the arrival of covid caused the intervention of the teacher in her.

Believing the world was shattered and children would be deeply affected by the fallout, she decided to fast-track her plan and self-publish Book #1. What better time to help children benefit from ‘Today’? today, I choose happy! »

Farris began making the circuit to schools, libraries, and bookstores, sharing the story with young audiences.


At such readings, she walks into a room full of children, beaming with a friendly, welcoming smile and with her arms full of interesting paraphernalia to engage curious minds with her message. Quickly, she gathers her new young friends around a table or squats in a circle on the floor. As an icebreaker to get everyone involved, it starts with a game.

Next comes the introduction of Petunia Pickle, a star in her mind. This brings us to the story of the perky character’s fun day of activities. Petunia and her friends will sing out of tune and dance to a lively beat, because each day they choose to be happy.

Throughout the reading, Farris pauses to interact with the children. She asks them for their opinion on a particular Petunia Pickle statement or if any of them enjoy the same activities as Petunia.

When introducing the cast of Petunia’s friends, she asks the group which of the characters share their own interests or personalities. Children’s contributions contribute to a joyful and thoughtful story hour.

At the end of the reading, Farris sends the children on a treasure hunt. Can they find a particular element in the story? Those who find it are rewarded with a treat.

As a final activity, she asks the children to make a toy to take home. It will serve as reinforcement to remind them how amazing each of them is, she says.

Farris is in her element when working with children she calls “young humans” of any shape or size. Petunia Pickle could channel Farris herself saying:

“I have skinny, spotty, and tall friends.

Furry, winged and colorful friends –

I love them all!”

An appendix at the end of the book provides tools for parents, grandparents, teachers – all adults – to use when reading the Petunia Pickle story to children. Farris lists questions to ask about the story and suggests items children might look for on the scavenger hunt.


His childhood experiences prepared Farris to write books to educate young humans on the keys to happiness.

Growing up in a home with an alcoholic father, she discovered a magical portal to escape to a happy place: her imagination. She learned that she could create fantasy worlds, with whimsical friends and in fascinating places. An imaginary circus was his favorite getaway. Here she could perform acrobatic performances and walk among exotic animals.

Her imaginary worlds helped her isolate herself from the desolation of her home. These first mental forays stimulated what became a highly developed creativity.

When she entered elementary school, Farris was diagnosed with visual perception problems that caused her to have difficulty calculating and measuring distances, making her sometimes clumsy and uncoordinated. Being different from others can be a real challenge for anyone, especially a child, but she says those experiences and the way she learned to deal with them came in handy when she started writing for children. having their own problems. The life lessons she had to learn prepared her to help others deal with unexpected challenges.

To overcome his visual impairment, he was asked to practice walking on a balance beam and his father built one. Through self-discipline and hard work, she mastered her physical clumsiness and continued to excel in athletics. She reached an elite level of athletics, earning a scholarship in gymnastics at Texas A&M.

Her childhood, she says, taught her the importance of owning a problem and not allowing it to control you.

After college, Farris learned other lessons while raising his children and during nearly three decades of teaching science in college. And she began to channel her creative imagination into paper. His earlier mental feats have passed into writing. Often, she would incorporate the lessons of her life into the stories, so the messages she hoped to convey would be memorable.

Another major influence was meeting and marrying Tommy Farris.

“It was like Supergirl meeting Jungle Boy,” Farris laughs.

Tommy is the yin to his yang, and both are very outdoorsy people. Their days are filled with hiking, biking, kayaking and other activities. And both are determined to face life’s obstacles as challenges.


This mixture of life experiences, coupled with his scientific training, allows him to understand how life works or does not work. Her book series aims to educate young readers about the many choices they face every day and the value of making conscious decisions, knowing that how they react provides a roadmap for their lives. Making the right choices will lead them to their desired destinations.

Farris understands how emotions can override the brain’s ability to make meaningful decisions, resulting in an instinctive “fight or flight” response. However, she says, with practice and discipline, a person can override instincts ingrained in the brain since the days of cavemen. 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 conscious decision making so that they work on it; with practice, it can become second nature to children.

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

“Today I choose Happy!” is available for $12 plus $4 shipping and handling; to order a copy or reserve a reading, email Farris at [email protected] or send a message via Facebook to “Patti Farris Books”.

Bob Robinson is the author of “Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail,” / “Route 66 Bike Guide” and “Lake Michigan Trail Bike Guide”.

Gallery: Patti Farris

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