'Baxter's Bunch' teaches sharing

When Warren Norman III shopped for a book for his 2-year-old son that featured talking sports balls as characters, he struck out.

"There were no ball characters out there," he said.

So he created some.

Two years later, Norman and artist Jay Thompson published "Baxter's Bunch," a colorful 40-page hardcover aimed at ages 2 to 10.

It stars Baxter the Basketball, Sage the Soccerball, Felix the Football and Booker the Baseball. The bunch lives in Cherry Park, which Norman and Thompson, both 32, said they know well from their Rock Hill childhood.

In the story, the balls teach kids the importance of sharing.

"He called me up and was like, 'I got a crazy idea,'" said Thompson, who graduated with Norman from Northwestern High School.

Norman described the characters to Thompson, who sketched several versions of each. They then created a publishing company and hired a Columbia press to print 3,000 copies.

Since the book's Oct. 23 release, it has sold about 1,100 copies, said Norman, part-owner of the Warren Norman real estate development company.

He hopes to sell enough to not only recoup his $30,000 investment, but to get a major publisher's attention.

His goal is for Baxter to gather steam locally and grow from there.

It seems word is getting around.

The book is for sale online, plus at Shepherd's Fold, Bookworm and Legacy's Child in Rock Hill. It's also on sale at Norman's Rock Hill office and at a booth in Charlotte's South Park Mall.

Norman and Thompson last month visited Mount Gallant Elementary School in Rock Hill and taught fifth graders how they made the book. Then they read students the story.

Other elementaries followed. The pair this month finished a five-school book tour.

Although he's starting small, Norman has high hopes.

He's already working on a second Baxter book.

"I dream big," Norman said. "I sort of get made fun of for thinking this will take off ... Man, I'm going for Disney."