J.K. Rowling announced Tuesday that she has written a children's fairy tale called "The Ickabog" and will release chapters of the book online each weekday for children to enjoy during these "strange, unsettling times." The author dropped the first two chapters of the story on Tuesday afternoon.
Rowling broke the news on Twitter, telling fans the book is not a spin-off of her best-selling "Harry Potter" series, but a brand new story. Rowling said in a press release on her website that she wrote "most of a first draft" more than 10 years ago, while she was still writing the "Harry Potter" books.
"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," Rowling tweeted, adding, "until very recently, the only people who'd heard the story of The Ickabog were my two younger children."
She added that the draft of the book remained in her attic for years, and that she brought the story downstairs weeks ago, did "a bit of rewriting" and decided to publish the book 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."
At least one chapter of the story will be published every weekday from Tuesday until July 10 on "The Ickabog" website, she said.
Rowling is also getting children involved in the book by asking them to illustrate it. She said she will make suggestions for artwork to accompany the released chapters each day. The parents or guardians of kids between the ages of 7 and 12 can then enter the completed pieces in a competition to have their art appear in the book, according to the book's site. The story will be officially published in English in November, with the "best drawings in each territory" included in the copies, Rowling's website said.
"I want to see imaginations run wild! Creativity, inventiveness and effort are the most important things: we aren't necessarily looking for the most technical skill!" Rowling wrote in the press release.
The competition will be run by Rowling's publishers. The drawings can be submitted online to the publisher of the artist's respective country, according to the book's website.
Rowling said she won't personally be judging the entries, as publishers in each area will judge which "pictures work best for their own editions." But she said if parents or guardians post their kids' creations on Twitter with the hashtag "#TheIckabog," she will be able to share and comment.
When the story is published and available for sale, Rowling said she will donate her earnings. She is pledging all author royalties from the book "to projects and organisations helping the groups most impacted by Covid-19," she tweeted.