Readers who long imagined themselves in Harry Potter’s world have a chance to immerse themselves in another fictional universe created by J.K. Rowling. The author said Tuesday that she would release “The Ickabog,” a new story for young readers, for free online.
“The Ickabog” will be published in 34 installments starting Tuesday, with one installment released every weekday until July 10. It will be targeted to readers ages 7 to 9 and published as a book in November.
In an announcement on her website, Rowling said she had started working on the book more than a decade ago, while she was still writing Harry Potter, and originally intended to publish it after she finished the last book in the beloved series. But she ended up keeping “The Ickabog,” which isn’t related to Harry Potter or any of Rowling’s other work, in her family, reading it to her young children and then putting it away in her attic until recently.
She decided to release “The Ickabog” now, she wrote on Twitter, “so children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.” Rowling said she would donate her royalties for the book to causes related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Readers will have a chance to participate in the process. Rowling’s publishers around the world will hold an illustration competition, encouraging children to submit drawings using the hashtag #TheIckabog to accompany the story. The best submissions will end up in the book’s final edition when it is published in the fall.
Her children, now teenagers, are “touchingly ecstatic” about the publication of their childhood bedtime story, Rowling wrote on her site. She started reading chapters to them again recently, which she said was “one of the most extraordinary experiences of my writing life.”
“‘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),” she wrote.
Details about the plot were scant, but the publisher described the book as “a fairy tale, set in an imaginary land.” Her management team said she was not available for an interview.
Rowling said in the announcement that “The Ickabog” was a story about “truth and the abuse of power,” but added that the story “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,” she wrote.