The final Harry Potter book may have been published in 2007, but the series still gets an annual re-read from children through to nostalgic adults, who likely grew up in the '90s and '00s. So, it’s little surprise that J.K. Rowling’s latest announcement has caused a stir on Twitter. Our favourite children's author is releasing a new book, during lockdown. No, it isn’t a Harry Potter spin-off, and yes, you can still read it even if you're technically too old for a bedtime story – it’s available for everyone, for free.
In a series of tweets, J.K. Rowling revealed that The Ickabog was a story she meant to publish after the Harry Potter series ended. She describes the book as “a story about truth and the abuse of power”, and says it was a favourite of her own children when they were growing up. Rowling tweeted that "seven to nine year olds could probably read it to themselves, but there's no upper age limit on stories!"
On Twitter, J.K. Rowling posted a picture of the Net-A-Porter box that The Ickabog has been stored in for the last few years. “A few weeks ago at dinner, I tentatively mooted the idea of getting The Ickabog down from the attic and publishing it for free, for children in lockdown," Rowling tweeted. "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.”
She plans to release the book in instalments via it's own dedicated website: www.theickabog.com. The first two chapters are now live, (published May 26), and a further 32 posts will follow every weekday for the next seven weeks. That means until July 10, there will be something new to read from J.K. Rowling. The posts will also be translated into other languages, shortly after the English version appears online.
Chapter 1, "King Fred the Fearless", introduces us to the king of Cornucopia – apparently he added "the fearless" suffix, "partly because it sounded nice with ‘Fred’, but also because he’d once managed to catch and kill a wasp all by himself, if you didn’t count five footmen and the boot boy."
Rowling then takes us on a whistle-stop tour of the land Fred rules, a mouthwatering series of regions, each with a different speciality, from the pastries of Chouxville – "so exquisitely, painfully delicious that they were saved for special occasions and everybody cried for joy as they ate them" – to the wines of Jeroboam, where "you could get tipsy simply walking its streets".
It's in the Marshlands, where only "tasteless, rubbery mushrooms and thin dry grass" grows, where the legend of the Ikabog monster originates. More of which in Chapter 2, "The Ikabog", which we'll leave you to enjoy in Rowling's words, online now.
The Ickabog will be published in its entirety, in print, in November 2020 – and Rowling is running a competition to illustrate the book, in a bid to keep her young readers busy and creative during lockdown. “I’ll be suggesting ideas for pictures as we go, but nobody should feel constrained by my ideas. Let your imaginations run wild," she said.
"The best pictures in each publishing territory will be included in the books we intend to publish in November 2020,” Rowling confirmed. The competition is open to seven to 12 year olds, and participants (or their parents) are encouraged to post their creations online using the hashtag, #TheIckabog.
The book will be a charitable initiative, Rowling said. “I intend to donate my author royalties from the published books to projects and organisations helping the groups most impacted by COVID-19.” Further details on this are set to be announced later this year.
Whether you’re a parent of young children, or a life-long J.K. Rowling fan, it’s impossible not to be curious about her latest story. We'll definitely be following the daily posts, as the tale of The Ikabog unfolds.