While several aspects of life have been paused or altered due to the pandemic, J.K. Rowling has utilized this extra time to bring something positive to the public by publishing a new children’s book, The Ickabog.
Originally written for and read to her children as they were growing up, The Ickabog was a project that, up until lockdown, Rowling thought only to be a personal one. However, the pandemic had different plans for this manuscript and, after seeing the effect the stay-at-home orders had on children, Rowling reached into her attic and back into the heart of the tale, breathing new life into this non-magical children’s story.
“It was very hard on children, in particular, so I brought The Ickabog down from the attic, read it for the first time in years, rewrote bits of it and then read it to my children again. They told me to put back in some bits they’d liked when they were little, and here we are!” Rowling said.
Although The Ickabog, “a story about truth and the abuse of power,” is neither an addition to the Harry Potter books nor a story with magical elements, its premise did occur to Rowling while she was writing Harry potter. She had originally intended to publish it after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but instead took a five-year break from publishing at the conclusion of the fantastical series. When she did put books back on the market, they were works for an entirely different audience (books for adults: The Casual Vacancy and the Cormoran Strike, mystery novels under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith). When The Ickabog did finally emerge from her attic, Rowling described the re-reading and writing process as “one of the most extraordinary experiences of my writing life.”
“I tentatively mooted the idea of getting The Ickabog down from the attic and publishing it for free, for children in lockdown,” Rowling said. “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… 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).”
Rowling released a new chapter of The Ickabog every week on the Ickabog website between May and July of 2020, during the height of the pandemic and world-wide, varied lockdown orders. It’s now available to order from anywhere books are sold.
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