It’s great fun to say Ickabog out loud, isn’t it? Yesterday, JK Rowling announced a brand-new children’s book, which she said will be published on her website for free. The excitement about Rowling writing a new children’s book series is palpable, for an entire generation of people who grew up with these books, reading, rereading, waiting, thinking, discussing, pre-booking and reading again. To imagine that we get to read a similar thing over the next two months? The last novel in the Harry Potter series came out in 2007 and that Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows had an Epilogue set 19 years later was a grim reality to acknowledge.

The author has said that The Ickabog should not be linked to Harry Potter. And there is no magic in it. But is that possible that anything Rowling writes, we won’t try to find a Potter reference in it? Rowling stated that she wrote it over a decade ago for her kids and now during this lockdown, she has dusted it off.

She said it is for “children on lockdown, or even those back at school during these strange, unsettling times”. Earlier she has referred to it as an unnamed “political fairytale”. The first two chapters of the story have been published on the website so far, with the promise that more will be made available in instalments, over the next seven weeks, ie, until 10 July on The Ickabog website. Also, there will be a printed edition later this year. An illustration competition is being run on the website and you can get your artwork and send it to be included in the printed book. Also, all the royalty Rowling earns from the printed book will be donated to help people who have been affected by the coronavirus. 

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In the first chapter, we meet king Fred the Fearless who rules Cornucopia a land which famous far and wide for its food. And his two flatterers Spittleworth and Flapoon. It is so famous for its pastry that a grown man’s eyes had to fill with tears of pleasure, otherwise, it was deemed a failure and never made again. Towards the end of the first chapter, we learn about the Marshlands and its people who never got to taste the delights of Cornucopian wine, cheese, beef, or pastries but is famous for the legend of the Ickabog.

The first two chapters of the story have been published on the website so far, with the promise that more will be made available in instalments, over the next seven weeks, ie, until 10 July on The Ickabog website.

The second chapter tells us Ickabog is a monster who is said to eat children and sheep and sometimes it even carried off men and women if they ventured too close to the marsh. In short, Ickabog’s powers were as great as the imagination of the teller. Chapter two finishes with the mention of terrible troubles which will engulf the city because of Ickabog.

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It got me hooked. The fairytale-ish structure holds your attention as you work your way through the two chapters. But since Rowling had said that it is a political fairytale there are some references in the first chapter which gets your imagination going, even though she made it clear that the story found its life first for her two younger children. I am waiting to read a few more chapters now. What about you have you read it yet?

The views expressed are the author’s own.

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