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JK Rowling announces surprise new children's book, The Ickabog

The Ickabog

Story by Jack Foley

JK Rowling has announced a surprise new children’s book, which she is publishing in daily instalments on her website for free.

The Ickabog will mark her first children’s story not to be linked to the world of Harry Potter, for which she is famous for writing. She actually wrote it over a decade ago for her own children but has decided to dust it off for “children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times”.

She had previously referred to it only as an unnamed “political fairytale”.

Chapters of The Ickabog will be published daily until July 10, 2020, on The Ickabog website.

Rowling also confirmed that, once the book is published in complete form, she will pledge all author royalties to those impacted by the virus crisis.

The first two chapters, which are online now, introduced King Fred the Fearless, ruler of Cornucopia, and five-year-old Bert Beamish.

Readers also learned about the myth of a fearsome monster called The Ickabog, which is “said to eat children and sheep”.

The Ickabog is a story about truth and the abuse of power,” explained Rowling. “To forestall one obvious question: the idea came to me well over a decade ago, so it isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.”

Rowling went on to say that she formulated the idea for the story while writing Harry Potter, and had the intent of publishing it after releasing Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows.

But after taking a break from publishing for five years, when she wrote her other books, The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, she placed The Ickabog “up into the attic, where it’s remained for nearly a decade”.

“Over time I came to think of it as a story that belonged to my two younger children, because I’d read it to them in the evenings when they were little, which has always been a happy family memory,” she wrote.

However, with the coronavirus taking grip across the globe, Rowling decided she wanted to publish her story for free, “for children in lockdown”.

Rowling went on to describe The Ickabog as a “read-aloud book” that is geared toward 7-9 year-olds to read to themselves. Translations of the story will be published when they become available.

Rowling is also enlisting help from children “needing distraction during the strange and difficult time we’re passing through,” to create illustrations for her new story.

“There will be suggestions about the illustrations we might need for each chapter on The Ickabog website, but nobody should feel constrained by these ideas,” she continued. “I want to see imaginations run wild! Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things: we aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!”

The Ickabog will eventually be published in November 2020 in English in print, eBook and audiobook formats. Submitted drawings in each territory will be selected to be featured in the finished books.

“As publishers in each territory will need to decide which pictures work best for their own editions, I won’t be personally judging the entries,” she said. “However, if parents and guardians post their children’s drawing on Twitter using the hashtag #TheIckabog, I’ll be able to share and comment.”

Further information about the illustration competition is listed on The Ickabog website.

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