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BACK TO SCHOOL 2014: Store-bought or DIY, notebooks can have personality

This photo provided by Zazzle shows a monogram spiral notebook. Monogrammable notebooks for back-to-school come in a variety of cool designs including geometrics and animal prints. Kids can also design their own by uploading photo collages and adding type. (AP Photo/Zazzle)

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This photo provided by Zazzle shows a monogram spiral notebook. Monogrammable notebooks for back-to-school come in a variety of cool designs including geometrics and animal prints. Kids can also design their own by uploading photo collages and adding type. (AP Photo/Zazzle)

When it's time to start stocking the school backpack, it's easy to just grab a stack of plain, boring notebooks.

But since kids have to tote these things to and fro every day, why not trade the standard-issue ones for something snazzy and personalized?

There are plenty of eye-catching options to buy or to make yourself.

At Zazzle and Cafepress, you can upload favourite images and decorate custom journals and notebooks with different fonts and colours. There are also fun backgrounds like chevrons, animal prints, sports themes and nature motifs that can be jazzed up with monograms or catchphrases. (www.zazzle.com ; www.cafepress.com )

Frecklebox offers cute, 50-page, wide-ruled spirals printed with owls, hearts, flames, robots, camouflage, flowers and other kid-centric patterns for grades 2-8. They can be personalized with names or initials in a variety of styles. (www.frecklebox.com )

My Paper Monkey's got some fun designs, including sporty cartoon dinosaurs for the younger set, and star, splatter and checkerboard designs for older kids. Names can be ordered in cool fonts that resemble graffiti, industrial stamps or pretty, Parisienne-style script. (www.mypapermonkey.com )

Add your name to a chalkboard image of inspiring words on a notebook at Tinyprints, or choose from designs like patchwork, meadow or feathers. (www.tinyprints.com )

If your kids are crafty, consider making a notebook or journal from scratch using recycled paper. Magazines, scrapbook paper and maps make good cover art, and can be cut into geometric shapes or left intact; apply to chipboard or cardboard, add blank or lined paper, and secure. Online tutorials suggest binding them with staples, duct tape, brads, book rings, wire, elastic or stitchery. (www.babbledabbledo.com )

Yarn and ribbon make pretty patterns on a plain book. Create stripes of colour, or make a bunch of little bows or loops as embellishment. You can affix bandanas or cloth napkins in zingy designs. Glue on buttons, sequins or shells.

Or give a composition book about three coats of chalkboard paint and add a bulldog clip to hold some chalk so you can carry an always-ready art space.

Find some craft pipe cleaners and create a colorful, textured notebook cover. Or add a rainbow of rubber bands to a notebook cover to hold clips and pencils.

Is there some material or felt lying around the house? Cover a book with soft velvet and add a stamped design of leaves for a luxe little book you'll love to get to work in. Or if you like to sew, cut out a felt cover and embroider it closed around the edges; add a pocket for an eraser or pen. (www.spoonful.com )

Got a favourite cereal, cookie or other food that comes in a box? Cut it up and grab the Mod Podge adhesive to make fun notebook covers that will remind kids that home, and snack time, await at the end of the school day. (www.mypaperpony.blogspot.com )

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