Frankie PrattWe came across an unusual book which seemed on the face of it to have little to do with computing, but on second thought turned out to fit perfectly with computers and the Internet.

It’s called “The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt” and is a full-color novel in the form of a scrapbook set in the roaring ‘20s. It starts with the author at age 17. She goes to Vassar, picks up shocking habits like learning to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee and takes on the world.

It struck us as an extremely clever way to turn a scrapbook into a novel or a wonderfully expanded family history. “Frankie Pratt” is great inspiration for anyone who wants to turn a digital scrapbook into a novel. We liked it a lot. What made it so engaging was that it was not simply a collection of photos of people at various ages, and what the old house looked like, but had pictures of the school, neighborhoods, old advertising posters, plays and a sheet music page here and there of songs from the period. You can get tons of these with a few searches on the Internet.

Lots of people save scrapbooks and you can turn them into a simple photo book on any photo website, like Flickr, Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly and Snapfish. But to go beyond that and make it really engaging, add pictures that are far from usual. Let your imagination run wild. The best site we found for making a kind of scrapbook novel is, from the well-known chain of crafts stores. They have some free designs and clip art, but to get access to 12,000 more designs costs $10 a month. There are lots of sources of free clip art; check out Microsoft Word and use a free screen capture program such as the snipping tool in Windows 7.

At the Michaels site it was fairly easy to drop in photos from files, either from your own computer or pictures you found on the web. You can add text messages that look like they were done on an old typewriter, in that old style “Courier” type font. Bring in ads, postcards, ticket stubs, catalog pages, candy wrappers and magazine art that you find on the web. .If you want to use images of personal papers, like old bills or school report cards, use a scanner. They’re cheap now; we got a Canon for less than $100.

“The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt,” by Caroline Preston; HarperCollins publishing, $17 at Very clever.

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