J.K. Rowling will release a new fairytale book, chapter by chapter, for free starting today

Magic is real. Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling announced she is releasing a standalone children’s fairytale book, chapter by chapter, starting today, May 26th. It’s called The Ickabog, and it’s an idea that has been tumbling around in Rowling’s head since her Harry Potter days.

“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,” Rowling wrote in her announcement on her website. But, she noted, after wrapping up the series, she took a break from publishing and moved onto other projects, leaving The Ickabog unfinished. In fact, she hesitated to publish it at all because she wanted to step away from kids’ books.

“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. But, Rowling decided to revisit The Ickabog during the pandemic, saying that “for the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again.”

Rowling will post a new chapter—”or two, or three”—every weekday from today, May 26th, until July 10th.

The Ickabog, Rowling wrote, is suitable for kids aged 7 to 9 to read to themselves or for parents to read to younger children while in lockdown (or following other social-distancing guidelines). But, we already know that Harry Potter fans young and old will most likely follow along with the tale, regardless of their age.

The Ickabog is a story about truth and the abuse of power,” Rowling wrote as a disclaimer. “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.”

Furthermore, Rowling is asking young fans to help her illustrate The Ickabog story.

“I thought how wonderful it would be if children in lockdown, or otherwise needing distraction during the strange and difficult time we’re passing through, illustrated the story for me,” Rowling wrote. She will offer suggestions about what illustrations the book may need via the website but put emphasis on kids using their imagination: “Creativity, inventiveness, and effort are the most important things: We aren’t necessarily looking for the most technical skill!”

The chosen illustrations will appear in the November 2020 print, eBook, and audiobook formats of The Ickabog. Parents can share their children’s work on Twitter using the hashtag #TheIckabog.

The first chapter of The Ickabog will go live later today, and you can read it right here.

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