What is JK Rowling's new book The Ickabog about and when are new chapters released?
THE HARRY Potter franchise is the best-selling book series of all time – and now JK Rowling has released a new children's novel.
But what is the famous author's upcoming fairytale The Ickabog about, and when will the story's free chapters be released?
What is JK Rowling's new book The Ickabog about?
The Ickabog is the first children's book to be released by JK Rowling, 54, since she published her final instalment of the Harry Potter seven-part franchise in 2007.
In a post on her website, she revealed that it is a "story about truth and the abuse of power".
It begins with King Fred the Fearless, ruler of Cornucopia, and five-year-old Bert Beamish, and readers are also introduced to the myth of a fearsome monster called The Ickabog, which is "said to eat children and sheep".
The majority of Cornucopia was a "magically rich land" with happy people and lots of delicious food.
However, those dwelling on the northern tip, known as the Marshlanders, lived on scraps.
They had "rough voices, which the other Cornucopians imitated" and were teased about "their manners and their simplicity".
Commenting on its theme, the author noted: "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She first referred to the unpublished book's existence in a 2007 interview with Time magazine, and described it as a "political fairytale".
Where can I read it and when are the new chapters released?
The first two chapters are now available to read on The Ickabog's dedicated website.
New ones will then be published daily until July 10.
The story is available completely free.
It will be published in English in print, eBook and audiobook formats in November 2020, with other languages to follow.
All royalties from sales will go to help groups who have been particularly affected by the pandemic.
Rowling has invited people to submit their own drawings inspired by the book in an illustration competition, with the winners from territories around the world being printed in the books.
In terms of enjoying the novel, she said: "I think The Ickabog lends itself well to serialisation because it was written as a read-aloud book (unconsciously shaped, I think, by the way I read it to my own children), but it’s suitable for 7-9 year olds to read to themselves."
What has the Harry Potter author said about The Ickabog?
Rowling has given an in-depth account of how the The Ickabog came about – and when she had the idea to release it for free during the coronavirus pandemic.
She explained: "I wrote most of a first draft in fits and starts between Potter books, intending to publish it after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
"However, after the last Potter book I wanted to take a break from publishing, which ended up lasting five years. In that time I wrote The Casual Vacancy and Robert Galbraith wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling.
"After some dithering (and also after my long-suffering agent had trademarked The Ickabog – sorry, Neil) I decided I wanted to step away from children’s books for a while.
"At that point, the first draft of The Ickabog went up into the attic, where it’s remained for nearly a decade."
The author continued: "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.
"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.
"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)."
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