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After a busy day as college mascot, Sir Norby Knight enjoys quiet time with his favorite storyteller, Nick Patton ’03.

A Knight’s Tale

Sometimes artistic inspiration strikes when least expected. In March 2012, Nick Patton ’03 (Communications) came across a feature story tied to the NCAA basketball tournament. A husband and wife in Missouri were on opposite sides of the first-round matchup between Wisconsin and Montana, their respective alma maters. The story showcased how each had previously written a children’s book about their school’s mascot – Bucky Badger and Monte the Grizzly.

Patton immediately thought, “How about a book featuring Norby?” 

Two years earlier, Norby Knight had made his debut on campus. In fact, it was Patton who had developed the mascot character to embody Green Knight spirit in De Pere. A graphic designer in the college’s office of communications, he designed the mascot costume and, last year, a Norby plush figure. This summer, “Norby the College Mascot,” written and illustrated by Patton, was published by St. Norbert College Press. 

The story focuses on a very Norbertine idea: finding one’s calling in life. “It provides an opportunity to talk about what you want to be when you grow up and how to get there,” says Patton. “Like Norby, who changes his mind, you are probably going to change your mind about what you want as you learn about different job opportunities, different career paths or vocations.”

The book is designed for ages 3 to 8, but Patton included elements that will resonate with students and alumni, as well.

“When doing the illustrations, you might as well entertain,” he says. “There is a picture of the president’s cabinet in the book where Norby is telling them about his ice-cream idea. All the reference photos are from St. Norbert photography. If a kid picks this up and thinks it’s him, it’s probably him if he’s been in one of our photo shoots. That was fun. I live in the photo archive for St. Norbert, so I know that archive very well. Getting reference for this book was very easy.”

Iconic campus images are found throughout the pages.They include Main Hall, the Campus Center and the library.

The book is a highlight of a nine-year journey for Patton, who in 2004 began pursuing his interest in becoming an author/illustrator.

“The first thing I did was take a storytelling class,” he says. “That taught me how to understand story and story structure. From there, I’ve been working on stories, doing illustrations, putting together packages, pitching them out and having them rejected.” 

Patton describes his style as “more of a painter” than a sketch artist. His favorite children’s book illustrator is Loren Long. His favorite storyteller is Mo Willems.

While Patton created the book, he quickly points out that “it’s Norby’s show.” He hopes the mascot can help promote the college through appearances at book readings at schools, libraries and special events, including SNC Day on Sept. 21.

“We are going to make a stamp so Norby can put his stamp on the book,” explains Patton, “and, for little kids, we will have a knighting ceremony where Norby knights the child. 

“The great thing about doing a book like this is the community aspect. There is already an audience that loves St. Norbert College. There is already an audience that loves Norby, so to be able to show St. Norbert and Norby in a format like this is exciting.”

Patton is happy to be linked to the character: “I was able to form the way he looks and, with the story, I had the opportunity to form the way he thinks and some of his character, which was fun,” he said. “Norby is all over the place in my world.”

Patton emphasized that the charging knight on horseback will continue to serve as the primary symbol for Green Knight athletics.

“Norby is geared to a completely different audience,” he says. “For athletics, that charging knight is their mark. When you switch over to more fun, childlike spirit stuff, then Norby is the character we use.”

July 2, 2013