A novel scrapbook: The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt (review)

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt
Caroline Preston
Harper Collins

One of my most precious possessions is a “School Friendship Book” I found at a flea market several years ago. It is the real deal. None of this photos cropped, matted, and embellished with stickers stuff that we do today.  No, this is a leather journal-sized wonder with dusty manilla paper pages, warped with age and crammed with mementos. It belonged to one Avis B. from Elkhart, Indiana, Class of 1923. Pages are filled with handwritten notes, poems, and remembrances from teachers and students at Elkhart High School. But the fun starts about halfway where Avis taped and glued the following:
An invitation to Bea’s party (“Oh boy, oh joy, did we have fun!)
cut-out construction paper hearts (“Valentine’s party had a swell time”)
Elkhart High Athletic Association membership tickets
cut-out EHS cheers from the school newspaper (“Hit ’em on the elbow/hit ’em on the jaw/Cemetery, Cemetery/Rah! Rah! Rah!)
newspaper articles about sporting events, Jollies, and plays
curly lock of gorgeous auburn hair
Camel cigarette (“Lavon Holdeman June 1923”)
fabric shamrock (another “swell time–why? Oh that would be telling!”)
lock of her own “golden locks”
napkins
Christmas card
Halloween paper cupcake topper/favor
and a dozen or more circa 1921-23 photos of girls, and one photo of a saxaphone-playing young man. See why it’s so precious?

FrankieSo imagine my incredible delight when I found Caroline Preston’s The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt recently at my local bookstore–used, in great Frankie3condition, and only nine dollars! (It was also curiously mis-filed because it was in the Book Club section, not in the used books, which in my mind, means it was meant to be mine.) I’m often late to the party, so this is my first encounter with Frankie which was published in 2011. Oh. My-lanta. I might have even gasped aloud softly when I saw it. I bought it for the novelty, assuming I’d just look at the pretty pictures and layouts one afternoon and be done with it. Except it’s a novel. Really–the scrapbook actually reads like one. And of course I can’t help but connect Frankie Pratt to my Avis.

It’s not high literature. There’s no complex plot twists or turns. But if you’re looking for something to read just for sheer fun of it?  You’ll love Frankie Pratt, I’m sure.

Taking the Joy Dare with Jane Austen

I adore Jane Austen. I mean, I am so there. The countryside, all hedgerows and lanes; the homes—Northanger Abbey, Norland Park–gracious with their breakfast dishes and card rooms. And those Georgian manners, “high spirits and good humor” all around at a carriage ride after breakfast; or, letters hastily set aside with colourless faces.  Where new ribbons can make any bonnet both stylish and flattering. Oh, to spend my leisure time with the piano forte or my petit point and drawing (well, maybe not so much).

joy dareSo I was thrilled when I visited my local independent bookstore to choose a new journal and found this little gem: Jane Austen Novel Journal by Chronicle Books. Oh my goodness. (If you can’t find it locally, the journal is available at Gone Reading, a site with bookish gifts to die for—but more on that in another post!) The pages are sprinkled with quotes from her books; the layouts varied–some ruled, some pin-wheeled, some divided.

Now–me, a journal? Quite uncharacteristic. But I’m using Ann Voss’s Joy Dare this year to count up to one thousand gifts and graces. (You can print your own list of dares from her blog A Holy Experience.)  Because I’m stuck. I’ve had countless experiences of grace recently, worked through some incredibly difficult situations last year, and still I find myself restless. Heart-weary. How can that be in the face of so much that is good in my life? I’ve managed to successfully avoid that whole gratitude journal idea—too often (at least in the posts I read) I find it a kind of maudlin here’s-my-life-I’m-pretty-holy exhibition. Harsh, I know, but that’s how I read ’em. But I know I have to do something to rock myself out of this rut.

Enter the Joy Dare which I found via A Holy Experience via Mundane Faithfulness, evangelical Christian bloggers both. Now that’s not my spiritual bent, but I can sure appreciate that the list offers some guidelines without being proscriptive. It’s fresh. So Sunday I wrote down three “yellow gifts of fresh mercy”. Yesterday was “something above, below, beside” and today, “three startling graces of God”. Now this is something I can do (joyfully, I might add!), right along with Jane, because I think she just might understand: “It is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible” (Northanger Abbey).

Which I intend to do.

A sweet lil’ reading challenge

When I browse online reading challenges, I’m usually underwhelmed by what I find at the linky parties: 30 posts in 30 days and I’m to write about my “favorite side character” (really?!); a mix-it-up challenge and I’m reading “medical thriller fiction” (what the-what the?!); or 52 books in 52 weeks? (I’ve got a life, here, folks!)  I have participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge for the past two years because it’s flexible—I set my own goal, as few or as many books as I want—and that sliding bar on my Goodreads homepage is a nice nudge in the right reading challengedirection. But it’s all me. And kind of boring.

But Popsugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge (link) caught my eye, for some reason when it popped up on Pinterest. Odd because I’m not Popsugar’s demographic (18-40-year-old-women … ah, I don’t think so!), nor am I particularly interested in the hottest trends or any place “women’s passion points connect”, Popsugar’s tag line. And I have no idea what a “lifestyle brand” is. But there it was, “the ultimate reading challenge”–50 categories, all but winking at me on the screen.

There are some serious categories—book more than 100 years old, a banned book. Some light reading—a book you can finish in a day, a funny book. And some that will probably stretch my comfort level a bit—a book with nonhuman characters (Have I told you how much I hate talking rabbits?), a book that scares you. Popsugar reassures that even though they included 50 categories (or 52 with the trilogy), readers should pick and choose according to their reading tastes—which I will definitely do.

And if the categories aren’t that different from the million and one other reading challenges on the interwebs? Well, there’s something about a handy printable graphic to download (link) that caught my over-40 year-old, decidedly untrendy eye.

So there it is–printed, tucked in my Kindle cover, all 50 little checkboxes just waiting for me to add my tick marks.