J.K. Rowling’s newest story first appeared as an online daily serial, free to readers all around the world. Known by billions of people for the Harry Potter series and various spin offs, J.K. Rowling has a huge fan base, who embraced the story and the spirit of generosity in which it was shared.
J.K. Rowling originally conceived this fairy tale more than a decade ago and read it to her small children as a bedtime story. As the devastating impact of the global pandemic rolled out across the world she felt that perhaps she could offer something to entertain children, parents, and carers. She retrieved the dusty filing box from the attic and discussed with her children the possibility of sharing The Ickabog with the world.
Now teenagers, her children gave her a positive response and so she revitalised the manuscript and, in the process, satisfied the many, many fans who have been clamouring for “the lost manuscript”. J.K. Rowling has been dropping hints for years that such a thing existed. Nerd alert: some of us would remember when J.K. Rowling wore a gorgeous evening gown with a mysterious manuscript written on the fabric. This is that story!
To be very clear, this is not Harry Potter. The world is an entirely new invention with new characters and a mysterious myth about a fearsome monster called “The Ickabog”. It is set in Cornucopia, the happiest kingdom in the world, where everything is perfect. Adults tell tall tales about the mythical Ickabog to scare children into behaving. However, this myth starts to take on a life of its own, and when the foolish king begins to trust the wrong people, all sorts of calamitous events unfold.
Soon the kingdom is in peril and the people live in fear. Is the Ickabog a myth? Could poor judgement and greed bring a kingdom to its knees? Everything is spiralling out of control. Two children emerge as leaders, though their path will not be easy, and they will need help from some very surprising allies. Can trust and kindness triumph over self-interest and fear?
This book is written in the vernacular of a traditional fairy tale, utilising the norms of the genre but with a few modern twists. The narrator really does “tell” the story, so it is perfect for reading aloud.
When I opened the delivery box, the beautiful presentation of this edition bought a smile to my face! It is a hardcover book, with a matte dust jacket with gold embossing. There are coloured endpapers, a foreword by the author, a contents page, coloured chapter headings and, most gloriously of all, 34 full colour pages featuring illustrations by children from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and India.
J.K. Rowling invited children to send in their illustrated interpretations, responding to the story as it unfolded in the online serial. These 34 illustrations are the winning entries in the competition and I’d particularly like to mention that there are six young Australians among the winners, selected from over 18,000 entries. Well done Grace, Mahli, Sofia, Ella, Jordyn and Erica!
Before I began to read the book, I took the dust jacket off (of course) and was delighted to find that the cloth cover is foiled and the spine is embossed foil also. Also delightful is that royalties from this book will be donated to assist vulnerable groups who have been particularly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ickabog will be a cherished gift, a collectible for J.K. Rowling fans, perfect for read-alouds to children 7+ and a “must have” for independent fantasy readers aged 10+.