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Read J.K. Rowling’s New Children’s Book Online for Free

The “Harry Potter” author is also asking young readers to submit illustrations of “The Ickabog”

The author is quick to point out that The Ickabog is separate from the Harry Potter series. (Debra Hurford Brown / J.K. Rowling)
smithsonianmag.com

Harry Potter fans won’t have to suffer through lengthy lines or employ a summoning charm to snag a copy of J.K. Rowling’s new children’s book. As the author announced on Tuesday, she will release her latest tale, The Ickabog, in free installments posted on the book’s website over the next seven weeks.

Rowling broke the news on Twitter, writing, “I’ve decided to publish the Ickabog for free online, so children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times, can read it or have it read to them.”

The story—targeted at kids ages 7 to 9—will be published in 34 installments released each weekday through July 10, reports Concepción de León for the New York Times.

Readers shouldn’t expect to learn more about house elves and flying cars. This new book “isn’t Harry Potter and it doesn’t include magic. This is an entirely different story,” notes Rowling in a statement.

Instead, The Ickabog centers on King Fred the Fearless, who rules the mythical land of Cornucopia, and 5-year-old Bert Beamish. The tale also involves a monster: the titular Ickabog, who is rumored to devour children, according to BBC News.

“I had the idea for The Ickabog a long time ago and read it to my two younger children chapter by chapter each night while I was working on it,” says Rowling in the statement. “However, when the time came to publish it, I decided to put out a book for adults instead, which is how The Ickabog ended up in the attic.”

Rowling recently retrieved the dust-covered manuscript—which she initially planned to publish after completing the Harry Potter series—from storage. She then rewrote sections of the story and made edits suggested by her teenaged children.

“They told me to put back in some bits they’d liked when they were little, and here we are!” she writes in the statement.

The Ickabog will be published in print this November, reports the New York Times. The near-billionaire author says she plans to donate all royalties from the book to people who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rowling is also encouraging young fans to illustrate scenes from The Ickabog. Parents are asked to post their children’s artwork on Twitter with the hashtag #TheIckabog. Publishers around the world will select the best submissions; these drawings will eventually be published in different editions of the book.

Last month, Rowling announced the launch of Harry Potter at Home, a separate online hub featuring Harry Potter-themed trivia, quizzes, activities and more, as Katherine J. Wu reported for Smithsonian magazine at the time. Superfans can listen to famous actors—including Daniel Radcliffe, Olivia Colman, Stephen Fry and David Beckham—read chapters of the books aloud, or access audiobook versions of the beloved series for free.

As the author wrote on Twitter, “Parents, teachers and carers working to keep children amused and interested while we’re on lockdown might need a bit of magic.”

About Nora McGreevy

Nora McGreevy is a freelance journalist based in South Bend, Indiana. Her work has appeared in Wired, Washingtonian, the Boston Globe, South Bend Tribune, the New York Times and more. She can be reached through her website, noramcgreevy.com.

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