J.K. Rowling pulled a literal box out of her literal attic a few weeks ago in order to literally dust off a draft of a book she wrote many years ago while still in the midst of writing the Harry Potter series. Now, as a coronavirus era gift to children (and adults) everywhere, she is releasing the book, called The Ickabog, for free online, chapter by chapter.
Rowling writes on her blog that she’d originally intended to publish The Ickabog after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but then just sort of felt done with children’s books for a while, and up to the attic it went. That is, until recently, when she mentioned to two of her children that she was thinking about publishing it online for free. These would be the same (now much bigger) children she’d read the story aloud to years ago, while she was writing it, she says:
My now teenagers were touchingly enthusiastic, so downstairs came the very dusty box, and for the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again. As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again. This was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my writing life, as The Ickabog’s first two readers told me what they remember from when they were tiny, and demanded the reinstatement of bits they’d particularly liked (I obeyed).
Rowling describes The Ickabog as “a story about truth and the abuse of power,” but she also reiterates that it was written well over a decade ago and is not, therefore, a response to anything currently happening in the world.
She’s releasing a chapter—or two, or three, there are no rules here!—every weekday from now until July 10. As of today, there are five chapters posted to get you started. The story lends itself well to a serial release, she says, because it was written primarily as a read-aloud book, shaped largely from the way she read it to her own children. But kids ages 7-9 (and older, of course) can also read it on their own.
While you’re on The Ickabog’s website, check out the illustration competition Rowling is hosting. Children ages 7-12 can draw or paint illustrations to accompany each chapter, and some will be selected to be featured in The Ickabog print, e-book and audiobook forms set to publish in November.
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