Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Friday, September 9, 2016

Across The Cosmic Expanse

For those studying space sciences there is an entirely different set of theories about space, space travel and life on other planets than for those fans of science fiction television shows, movies and books.  We can boldly go where no man has gone before by watching Star Trek, wish for the Force to be with us as we travel with the characters in Star Wars, or heed the advice of Robot in Lost in Space, Danger, Will Robinson, danger.  We can travel beyond the boundaries of Earth's gravity in books such as Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke, Akiko on the Planet Smoo by Mark Crilley, Lowriders in Space by Cathy Camper and Raul The Third or Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

We may discover again and again the inhabitants of other outer worlds share some common characteristics with us.  Best Frints in the Whole Universe (A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, July 5, 2016) written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis explores the relationship of two individuals from a unique planet.  These buddies boisterously proclaim their affection amid their antics.

Yelfred and Omek have been best frints since they were little blobbies.

Frints?  Blobbies? Not only are their physical characteristics remarkable but their language is a teensy bit unusual.  Being best frints (friends) is a challenge in this world; with teef (teeth) and tempers posing problems.

Yelfred and Omek are inseparable.  They enjoy eating together.

They play eye ball in the peedle pit.

YUCK! Eye ball?  This is especially tricky when you realize the peedles are plants with teef.  An incorrect throw can cause hours of back-and-forth discourse.

When Yelfred gets a spossip (spaceship) for his birthday he can hardly wait to show Omek.  Omek can hardly wait to drive it.  Yelfred is not willing to let Omek drive his new spossip; worried he will destroy it.  Omek is not happy with that answer, not happy at all.

With a whoosh and an oops the two frints find themselves in a difficult situation.  Never ones to be quiet, never ones to be indecisive, their tale takes a turn.  Teamwork can patch up more than one thing, especially those things in which nature does not do the fixing.

With a mind for creating books which ask readers to extend their thinking Antoinette Portis builds a new world, characters and a vocabulary in her most recent release.  I have to believe she completely enjoyed herself while writing a narrative with accompanying dialogue similar to how friendships on planet Earth are grown with hilarious twists.  The comedy is heightened with the repeated use, in parentheses, of this phrase

Not like here on planet Earth.

This sentence, of course, means the opposite of what is stated and is sure to bring on bouts of laughter.  Here is another sample passage.

They share.  Unless they don't feel like it.
"No! You'll schmackle it to bits."
"I'm the best driver on Boborp!
Let me have a turp!"

The first thing you notice, other than the two strange grinning creatures on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case, is the signature color palette.  The vivid purples, blues, greens, and pinks definitely proclaim we're out of our world.  Spanning from left to right is a single image, rolling textured hills with multiple moons on a starry sky.  On the opening and closing endpapers with a background of large circles in muted dark green, golden yellow, pink and orange Portis provides readers with a Boborpian Glossary, twenty-five different line drawings and translations with one spot left for readers to make up their own words.

On the pages opposite the title and final pages those circles on the endpapers overlap in a kaleidoscope of shades.  Portis continues to use the circles to place smaller images within liberal amounts of white space.  The single and double page illustrations are a blast of action and color.  You never know whether the background will be yellow, teal, magenta, deep blue, spring green, or white.  The abstract landscapes, flora and fauna are carefully placed with an eye for design and layout.

Her characters of Yelfred and Omek are expressive in their facial looks and in the use of their arms, legs and antennae.  Portis gives readers panoramic views, moves in closer and really zooms in on a particularly significant image.  You can't help but smile at the high and low points of this relationship.

One of my favorite illustrations is at the beginning.  On a single page Yelfred is standing on a red round outcrop with four colorful moons on a yellow background.  His purple arms, antennae and legs are spread wide.  His face is front and center looking at the reader wearing a huge grin so we can see his three large, long teef.

With every reading of Best Frints in the Whole Universe written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis your happiness will grow larger and longer.  These two pals seems to be at odds as much as they are in sync but they help us to realize no matter where you reside the essence of friendship can withstand anything, even the schmackle of a spossip.  It also helps to have one special item handy at all times. (You'll have to read the book to discover this valid piece of advice.)

To learn more about Antoinette Portis and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to visit her website.  You can view eight pages at the publisher's website.  Readers will enjoy the four-page activity guide.  Antoinette Portis is a guest at All The Wonders, Picturebooking, Episode 45 with Nick Patton.


  1. On my to-read list! I really love Antoinette Portis's work, especially Waiting--so lovely! But the bird lover in me also loves Froodle!

    1. You can't help but laugh reading this aloud. The color palette is way out there but then so are the characters.