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J.K. Rowling is making her return to children’s literature for a good cause.
In a blog post published on her website Tuesday, the author announced that she will release a new story called The Ickabog, releasing new chapters weekly to help distract children in lockdown as a result of the novel coronavirus.
“The Ickabog is a story about truth and the abuse of power. 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,” she wrote of her story.
The author explained that she formulated the idea for her new story while writing Harry Potter, and had the intent of publishing it after releasing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — the new story is not connected to Potter. After taking a break from publishing for five years — during those years she wrote her other books, The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo’s Calling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith — she put 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, amid the novel coronavirus, the author decided she wanted to publish her story free, “for children in lockdown.”
“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 wrote The Ickabog as a “read-aloud book” that is geared toward 7- to 9-year-olds to read to themselves. She will post new chapters every weekday between May 26 and July 10 on the Ickabog website. 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. 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 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. However, if parents and guardians post their children’s drawing on Twitter using the hashtag #TheIckabog, I’ll be able to share and comment,” she wrote. Further information about the illustration competition will be listed on the Ickabog website when it launches.
Hoping to offer some relief to those affected by the pandemic, Rowling announced that, when the book is published, she will pledge all author royalties to those impacted by the virus crisis.
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