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Not a Harry Potter spin-off: JK Rowling releases first chapters of new story, The Ickabog, online for free – art and culture

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Renowned children’s author JK Rowling is publishing a new story called The Ickabog, which will be free to read online to help entertain children and families stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Taking to her Twitter handle on Tuesday, the author announced, “I have a small announcement, but before I get started, I want to head off one possible source of confusion. THIS IS NOT A HARRY POTTER SPIN-OFF.”

The author’s 13 tweet long thread went on, “Over 10 years ago, I wrote a stand-alone fairy tale called The Ickabog…. About The Ickabog The idea for The Ickabog came to me while I was still writing Harry Potter. I wrote most of a first draft in fits and starts between Potter books, intending to publish it after… I always meant to publish it, but after the last Potter was released I wrote two novels for adults and, after some dithering, decided to put those out next. Until very recently, the only people who’d heard the story of The Ickabog were my two younger children.”

She went on to write how she though The Ickabog was not for public eyes, “Over time I came to think of The Ickabog as just for my family. The manuscript went up into the attic, where it remained until a few weeks ago. This is the very dusty box I got down from the attic. Opening the box was like opening a time capsule. Most of the story was handwritten, but bits had been typed up. When I put it into some kind of order (I’m not renowned for my filing skills) I had a patchwork first draft.”

 

The Harry Potter author said she wrote the fairy tale for her children as a bedtime story over a decade ago. Set in an imaginary land, it is a stand-alone story “about truth and the abuse of power” for children from 7 to 9 years old and is unrelated to Rowling’s other books.

Rowling said the draft of the story had stayed in her attic while she focused on writing books for adults. She said her children, now teenagers, were “touchingly enthusiastic” when she recently suggested retrieving the story and publishing it for free.

“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,” she said.

“’The Ickabog’s first two readers (her children) told me what they remember from when they were tiny, and demanded the reinstatement of bits they’d particularly liked (I obeyed).” The first two chapters were posted online Tuesday, with daily instalments to follow until July 10.

The book will be published in print later this year, and Rowling said she will pledge royalties from its sales to projects helping those particularly affected by the pandemic.

On her personal website, Rowling explained the premise of Ickabog, “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.”

 

The author has also asked, via her Twitter handle, children between the ages of 7-12 to contribute artwork and illustrations for the story, saying that other ages can send in their art too as she would love to see it. She wrote, ““I’ll be giving suggestions as to what to draw as we go along, but you should let your imagination run wild.” And her feed is flooded with variations of the characters of Ickabog, and Ickabog himself. Rowling also mentioned that it is an official competition that is being run by Scholastic and that the final printed version of the book, which will release later this year, could have the artwork of those who participate. Whether any compensation will be offered wasn’t mentioned by Rowling, however the competition’s official rules say that a total of 34 winners will receive a “signed copy of the book,” adding that $650 “worth of books” will be donated by Scholastic to the winner’s choice of school or library.

(With AP inputs)

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