Listen up, Harry Potter fans!
J.K. Rowling is releasing a totally new book. That's right! The 54-year-old author announced the new fairy tale, called The Ickabog, via her website on Tuesday.
While Rowling made it clear "this is not a Harry Potter spinoff," she also noted she came up with the idea for the story while she was still writing the Harry Potter series.
"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," she wrote via her website. "However, after the last Potter book I wanted to take a break from publishing, which ended up lasting five years."
During that time, Rowling wrote The Casual Vacancy and The Cuckoo's Calling. Then, after a bit of "dithering," she decided to "step away from children's books for a while." As a result, her first draft of The Ickabog was tucked away in the attic, where she said it stayed for nearly a decade.
"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 continued via her site.
Then, a few weeks ago, she decided to bring the book back down and publish it for free for children social distancing amid the global coronavirus pandemic. She's also donating all author royalties from The Ickabog to coronavirus relief efforts once it's published. The book is expected to be published in print, eBook and audio formats in November 2020.
Her family members seemed in favor of revisiting the tale, too.
"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," Rowling wrote via her site. "As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again. This was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my writing life, as 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)."
So, what is the book about? Rowling described it as a "story about truth and the abuse of power." However, she reiterated she came up with the idea for the book over a decade ago and made it clear "it isn't intended to be read as a response to anything that's happening in the world right now," noting "the themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country."
While Rowling called the story a "read-aloud book," she also said it's "suitable" for children between the ages of 7 and 9 to read to themselves.
As for those wanting to dive into the story, Rowling wrote she intends to post a chapter ("or two, or three") every weekday between May 26 and July 10 via the The Ickabog website. But that's not all. She's also calling upon her young readers to help with the illustrations with a friendly competition. The winning images will be featured in the book this November.
Rowling has come up with many ways to keep readers entertained amid the global pandemic. She also recently launched the online hub Harry Potter At Home and released audio recordings of the first installments of the Harry Potter book series, including a chapter read by Daniel Radcliffe.