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Family Fun: Spokane artist Pierr Morgan illustrates ‘Chicken Talk Around the World’

UPDATED: Mon., March 15, 2021

In the United States, chickens say buk-buk bah-bok, but in India they say ku-ka ku-ka.

In “Chicken Talk Around the World,” a new picture book by Seattle-area author Carole Lexa Schaefer and illustrated by Spokane artist Pierr Morgan, children visit their grandmothers on farms in six countries, giving readers a glimpse of life in each place.

They’ll learn what chickens say in each language, of course, along with the words for chicken, rooster, egg and grandmother.

Morgan will read the book, which is being released Tuesday, during a Zoom storytime with Auntie’s Bookstore at 11 a.m. Saturday. She’ll also read two other books the pair have teamed up on: “The Children’s Garden: Growing Food in the City” and “The Squiggle.”

Morgan did lots of research for “Chicken Talk” so that she could create illustrations that reflected each region. She learned about the people and what the land would be like, including what kinds of plants would be on the farm.

“The text is just a little suggestion, then I gotta go illuminate it like heck,” she said.

“Since most people aren’t going to travel there, I like to flesh out a place so that kids can travel there when they look at my books,” she said.

She figured out which kinds of chickens would live in different places and based her illustrations on those breeds.

“My illustration style was not going to be loose and cartoony,” she said. “It was important to me that these be actual chicken that you would find in the world.”

So on Abuela’s farm in Mexico, there are Catalan chickens because they do well in hot climates. At Grandmere’s farm in France, there are Marans because that breed originated in France.

At the end of the book, the grandmothers and grandchildren are all shown eating breakfasts – with eggs, of course. Morgan researched typical meals for each country.

Schaefer and Morgan had help from friends from the different countries as well as consultants from their publisher, Little Bigfoot, to make sure the words and picture were good reflections of real life.

“Everybody’s curious about how other people live,” Morgan said. “It was so wonderful that we had a group of people from these countries that were able to look at the preliminary art.”

The illustrations in the book are made using gouache and ink resist. The colorful parts are painted with gouache first, then it’s covered over with black ink.

The painting is then rinsed off with water, and much like with wax resist, the black ink won’t stick to the gouache, but it does stick to the paper.

“It looks like you’ve ruined your painting, but it comes to life,” she said.

It’s the same process she’s used in several books, including “The Children’s Garden,” and illustrations from that book are on display at the Liberty Gallery.

In the gallery, there are also displays of some of the preliminary drawings from “Chicken Talk” with explanations about how and why things changed, as well as step-by-step explanation of the gouache and ink resist process.

Morgan has also created coloring pages to go along with the storytime. Families can pick them up from Auntie’s.

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