Reviews for Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

Booklist Reviews 2011 December #2
Small-town girl Frankie wants to get out of New Hampshire, get an education, and become a writer. She becomes a class of 1924 student at Vassar, finds a job in New York, publishes a short story in Collier's, and then makes her way to Paris. There she re-meets her college roommate's interesting brother as well as a ne'er-do-well older man from her past. Frankie goes back home, however, when her widowed mother contracts tuberculosis, and there she finds true love. Preston's story follows a predictable romantic arc, but the scrapbook format turns it into a welcome variant on the historical romance genre. True to the medium, only events that give Frankie pause are recorded, but Preston manages to include her heroine's encounter with period anti-Semitism, homosexuality, and even fallen royalty without straining suspension of disbelief. The full-color scrapbook artifacts include typed captions, postcards, magazine ads, pressed flowers, tickets, letters, and annotated maps. A delight for readers of gentle historical romances, but also for crafters and those interested in the popular culture of the Roaring Twenties. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

BookPage Reviews 2011 November
Travels & troubles: Graphic tales

Four new graphic novels address the appeal of running away and the impossibility of escaping your past, for good or ill.

If you’re even vaguely interested in graphic novels, you’re probably aware that Craig Thompson has a new book coming out. Thompson’s 2003 graphic novel Blankets told an autobiographical coming-of-age story and floored everyone who read it, winning all kinds of awards and making a star of its author. His long-anticipated follow-up, the utterly engrossing Habibi, is at least as gut-wrenching and even more substantial in size and scope.

Just to be clear, this book is not for the faint of heart. In the first few panels, our nine-year-old heroine, Dodola, is sold into marriage by desperate parents whose village is suffering from drought. Dodola’s new husband is no brute, but even so . . . she’s nine years old. Thus begins her journey through the world as a headstrong and beautiful Arab girl. Fortunately for Dodola (and us), her husband is a scholar, and he teaches her to read and write. She learns the stories of the Qur’an, the work of the great poets, the Thousand and One Nights. Then, abruptly, marauding thieves kill her husband and kidnap the girl. She’s brought to a slave market, where she finds and rescues a three-year-old orphan boy, Zam. From then on their fates are linked. They escape and live for a while on a ship marooned in the desert, but their need for food and water leads them to be discovered and separated. Each of them endures years of torment, accumulating scars, grieving and longing for each other. It’s pretty brutal.

But it’s also beautiful. Dodola’s and Zam’s stories are interwoven with the stories they learned as children, the underpinnings of Islam. This lends not only beauty and texture but also meaning and redemption to their suffering, and Thompson’s handling of the religious elements—something that might have been awkward or controversial—is restrained and graceful. His black-and-white drawings, often incorporating Arabic script, are at times floaty and feverish but always perfectly clear. He breaks up dreamy exposition with tightly structured action sequences, and the pages couldn’t be prettier. As always, his economical writing is deeply moving. Habibi is a book not to be missed.

Another story of a childhood spent in hostile surroundings, Marzi by Marzena Sowa, takes the opposite tack. Marzi’s story, especially at first, seems like it could be happening almost anywhere. In fact it’s set in Poland during the 1980s, as the country was rebelling against communism. It’s only as Marzi grows up and gains understanding that the impact of the political situation starts to become clear. For most of the book she’s a wide-eyed, innocent daddy’s girl with completely typical attitude problems, arguments with her friends, difficulty eating her vegetables, fights with cousins and so on. It’s fascinating and often hilarious to see huge world-changing events like the Chernobyl explosion and factory-workers’ strikes from the point of view of a regular little girl absorbed in her own life.

Entirely different but equally charming is The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston, a fictional memoir told in gorgeous full-color collages. With postcards, news clippings, ticket stubs, receipts, catalog pages and drawings that look like illustrations from vintage fashion magazines, Preston tells the coming-of-age story of Frankie, a bright young girl who graduates from high school in 1920 and goes to Vassar on scholarship after her father dies. She gets herself into numerous romantic entanglements, all of them ill-advised, and seems constantly on the verge of abandoning her dream of becoming a novelist. But Frankie is stubborn and scrappy, and she manages to take care of herself in a world where most girls like her just want to be taken care of. The happy ending is a little sudden, but it’s a pleasure to watch Frankie develop and learn to trust her nobler instincts until they pay off.

And finally, an idea I’m surprised hasn’t been tried before: a graphic novel adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales—on motorcycles. This retelling is done by Seymour Chwast, one of the founders of the influential Push Pin Studios who has already adapted Dante’s Divine Comedy. His irreverent humor makes him an even better fit for Chaucer, who never left a good fart joke untold. And nothing goes better with fart jokes than motorcycle touring. (It’s not entirely clear just why the pilgrims are riding hogs, but that doesn’t matter.) Most everyone in these 24 travelers’ tales ends up being thoroughly mocked, both in the smartypants dialogue and in the simplified but pointed drawings. The book works either as an introduction to Chaucer’s original text or as an alternate take for those who’ve read it many times already.

Copyright 2011 BookPage Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 October #2
Selecting from her own collection of period mementos, Preston (Gatsby's Girl, 2006, etc.) creates a literal scrapbook for a young New Hampshire woman coming of age in the 1920s. Frankie receives a blank scrapbook and her deceased father's typewriter as high-school graduation gifts and begins to record her adventures with the keepsakes she collects. Although Vassar offers Frankie a scholarship, Frankie still can't afford to attend college. Instead she takes a job caring for elderly Mrs. Pingree (see old debutante picture). The dowager's visiting nephew Jamie, a dashing, emotionally damaged World War I vet in his 30s, emotionally seduces 17-year-old Frankie (see his scribbled notes). When the not-yet-sexual affair is discovered, Mrs. Pingree gives Frankie a $1,000 check (see society-pages article about Jamie's wife). Soon Frankie heads off to Vassar, a haven of socialites and bluestockings (see bridge score card, pack of bobbed hair pins). Her rich, intellectual but neurotic Jewish roommate Allegra is a supportive friend until Frankie wins the literary prize (read snippet of Frankie's story about Jamie romance). After graduation, Frankie moves to Greenwich Village and finds a job at True Story. Allegra's brother Oliver, working at a new magazine called the New Yorker, becomes her constant companion. Though smart, kind and attentive (see admission tickets to movies, dancehalls, ballgames), he doesn't propose. When Frankie realizes why, she goes to Paris (see Cunard baggage sticker), where the past catches up with her and a whole new chapter of life starts. Lighter than lightweight but undeniably fun, largely because Preston is having so much fun herself. Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 July #1

When she graduates from high school in 1920, Frankie gets a scrapbook and her father's old Corona, which keeps her busy at Vassar and thereafter, as she pursues a writing career and sails for France on the SS Mauritania. Her story is illustrated with various memorabilia appropriate to scrapbooking: vintage postcards, magazine ads, ticket stubs, fabric swatches, candy wrappers, menus, and more. Sounds charming, and Preston's Jack by Josie did well; the 40,000-copy first printing and an eight-city tour are good news.

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Library Journal Express Reviews
The year is 1920. With her father's old Corona and the scrapbook her mother gave her for a high school graduation gift, Frankie Pratt decides to keep a journal. After all, she does want to be a writer. Via Frankie's full-color scrapbook illustrated with vintage memorabilia, archivist Preston (Jackie by Josie; Gatsby's Girl) carries us from Vassar to Greenwich Village and all the way to Paris before we return home to Cornish Flat, NH. Frankie is swept along by a powerful tide of popular and bohemian culture-picture palaces, Coney Island, the Yankees, the automat, Prohibition, Paris cafs, Josephine Baker, James Joyce, and Lucky Lindy all make their impression on her. Although her life seems improbably packed with incident and the plot somewhat echoes the pulp romances of the time, Frankie is a believable and likable character. She has the convincing voice of a modern young woman in a time of change: both practical and dreamy, knowing and innocent. Verdict The vintage scrapbook is an effective vehicle for an entertaining coming-of-age story steeped in the pop culture of the Roaring Twenties. A highly enjoyable read well suited to historical romance fans and scrapbookers alike. [See Prepub Alert, 6/6/11.]-Julia Cox, Penticton P.L., B.C. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 August #5

The origin story behind this graphic novel-cum-scrapbook, the first illustrated work by Jackie by Josie novelist Preston, might be more interesting than the by-the-numbers tale of flappers and expatriates inside. Preston, once an archivist at Harvard's Houghton Library, collected more than 600 pieces of original 1920s materiel from antique stores and eBay sellers--Sears catalogues, amusement park tickets, commemorative badges, even a box of seasickness pills. In handsome, full-color pages, the memorabilia tell the story of Frankie, an aspiring writer who leaves her poor New England family to travel to Vassar, then to New York, then to Paris, where she becomes tangled in a romance with an older publisher with ties to her past. Frankie's Zelig-like ubiquity--of course she dates a man who works for the New Yorker at its launch, and of course in Paris she winds up editing James Joyce--makes for a nifty armchair tour of postwar literary culture, but the love stories at the book's center remain unsurprising and unmoving. In the end, this "novel in pictures" is best appreciated for its fetishistic attention to period detail; even the captions were typed on a vintage 1915 Corona portable typewriter. (Nov.)

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