Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling has announced she will be releasing a children's book for free during the pandemic. The first chapter of The Ickabog, a fairy tale “about truth and the abuse of power”, dropped on May 26 with a new chapter following each day for thirty-four days.
The new book, which is set in an imaginary land unrelated to Rowling's other works (i.e. Harry Potter), will later be published as a book, ebook and audiobook in November, with Rowling's royalties going to projects assisting groups affected by the pandemic.
“I wrote most of a first draft in fits and starts between Potter books, intending to publish it after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Rowling wrote in her announcement on her website. She notes after the series wrapped, she took a break from publishing and left the book unfinished.
“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. But, Rowling decided to revisit The Ickabog during the pandemic, saying that “for the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again.”
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As for what the book entails, Rowling writes: “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.”
And while the chapters are being released online, Rowling has tasked her fans with illustrating the upcoming print edition.
“I thought how wonderful it would be if children in lockdown, or otherwise needing distraction during the strange and difficult time we’re passing through, illustrated the story for me,” Rowling wrote. “Creativity, inventiveness, and effort are the most important things: We aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!”
Parents can share their children’s work on Twitter using the hashtag #TheIckabog. You can read the chapters as they drop here.