Parents can share with their children the magical experience of reading the celebrated British author J.K. Rowling, one chapter at a time, as she releases her new children’s book, “The Ickabog,” online, in parts, for free.
Rowling announced the release in a tweet on May 26, but also made it clear it was no “Harry Potter” spin-off book.
The “Harry Potter” creator had intended to publish “The Ickabog” immediately after “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” came out in 2007. She had a change of heart, electing to write a domestic drama and series of detective novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, and the screenplays of the two “Fantastic Beasts” films.
“I decided I wanted to step away from children’s books for a while,” she said on the
theickabog.com website. “At that point, the first draft of ‘The Ickabog’ went 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.”
But in this lockdown, she thought of unearthing the old manuscript and resumed work on the book. “For the last few weeks, I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again.”
She started reading chapters every evening to her family.
Rowling revealed that “The Ickabog” has no magic. In the far-off Kingdom of Cornucopia, King Fred the Fearless rules in a land of plenty, but is out of touch with his subjects. One day, he hears about the legendary Ickabog, the monster that is said to steal sheep or even people, out in the Marshlands, and decides, out of vanity, to prove he is a worthy king by riding out and vanquishing this creature.
Designed to be read aloud
The chapters are uploaded several times a week until July 10 on the Ickabog website. The fairytale-style book is designed to be read by parents to children.
“It can be a one-on-one bonding that will help them strengthen their relationship,” said storyteller and Sophia School of Meycauayan principal Ann Abacan. “Since the ‘Ickabog’ book will come out in serialized form, this means more bonding and learning moments between them. Children will associate reading with happy family memories. Each chapter has unique experience and learning.”
Children can also read to themselves. Rowling has launched a unique contest, calling on kids to join the illustration competition. They must be 7-12 years old, and a parent or guardian must enter the contest for the child. The rules are on theickabog.com.
Winning entries will be part of printed book. The children’s art can be posted on social media using the hashtag #theickabog and tag @jk_rowling.
Rowling has promised to comment on each one: “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!”
Abacan said this contest fits the development process like a Griffindor sorted by the Sorting Hat. “Reading is one of the best ways to foster imagination,” she said. “It plays an important role in developing imaginative thinking that can lead to innovation and understanding. Through imagination, children can be creative and innovative by letting the words in the book describe a certain image in their minds.”
The complete version of “The Ickabog” will be published in English print, ebook and audiobook in November, with translations to follow. Children will not only share a new adventure but also help out—profits from sales will benefit groups hit hard by the pandemic.
The response to Rowling’s announcement has been dynamite. The new chapters are being read like crazy, and so many interpretations of the characters are showing up on Twitter.
True to her word, Rowling has commented on every entry: “I’m so impressed with the skill and imagination in these pictures! I love both of them. Can’t decide whether I’d rather hug them or run away from them!”
Abacan said it’s impressive for Rowling to use her celebrity for this cause: “J.K. Rowling is very famous because of her ‘Harry Potter’ series. That alone is enticing for children and parents to read this serialized ‘Ickabog.’ If this is also a part of her advocacy to fight COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease), that’s another reason to support this book.”For those who want to experience Rowling’s “Harry Potter” books in a different way during the lockdown, Rowling has made available “Harry Potter at Home,” with all 17 chapters of “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” read aloud by a celebrity, again for free. Fittingly enough, the first chapter “The Boy Who Lived” is read aloud by the actor who played Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe. Other chapters are read by Dakota Fanning, Eddie Redmayne, David Beckham, Whoopi Goldberg and other members of the original cast such as Bonnie Wright and Evanna Lynch. INQWatch the videos on
www.wizardingworld.com/chapters and listen to the audio on Spotify.