J.K. Rowling has announced her first non-Harry Potter book for children. But this one comes with unexpected twists: 1) it’s free and 2) she wants fans to help her illustrate it.
Rowling shared the news on Twitter, prefacing it by writing: “THIS IS NOT A HARRY POTTER SPIN-OFF.”
“Over 10 years ago, I wrote a stand-alone fairy tale called The Ickabog,” Rowling began, linking to more details on the piece. “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.”
Rowling said that she ended up putting the manuscript in the attic, but when she revisited it: “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. Over the last few weeks I’ve done a bit of rewriting and I’ve decided to publish the Ickabog for free online, so children on lock down, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.”
She described the fairy tale thusly: “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.”
Rowling will publish a chapter every weekday from May 26-July 10th on a website devoted to the book. And she wants kids to illustrate it: “I’d like children to illustrate the book for me! I’ll be suggesting ideas for pictures as we go, but nobody should feel constrained by my ideas. Let your imaginations run wild! The best pictures in each publishing territory will be included in the books we intend to publish in November 2020. As individual publishers will know best which illustrations work in their editions, I won’t be personally judging this competition.”