Once upon a time, there was a tiny kingdom called Cornucopia, famous for its food and delicacies. The king lived in the capital city of Chouxville, famous for its pastries. There is Baronstown, the city of sausages and hams, and Kurdsburg, which produces the finest cheeses. Then there is Jeroboam, which makes wines. Beyond Jeroboam, is the Marshlands, which is ignored by the rest of the kingdom.
But even in this happy kingdom, a monster lurks. Legends speak of a fearsome creature living far up north in the Marshlands... the Ickabog. Some people believe that the Ickabog captures sheep and children while others say it is just a myth. Parents frighten their children with stories about it, but nobody knows what the legendary monster looks like. The Ickabog's powers are as great as the imagination of the storyteller.
"The habits and appearance of the Ickabog changed depending on who was describing it. Some made it snake-like, others dragonish or wolf-like. Some said it roared, others that it hissed, and still others said that it drifted as silently as the mists that descended on the marsh without warning" writes famed Harry Potter author JK Rowling in her newest storybook 'The Ickabog'.
Thirteen years ago, the publication of JK Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows concluded the pop-culture phenomenon and the best-selling children's book series in history. Since then, Rowling has written a handful of adult novels (most under the pen name Robert Galbraith), and several Potter-related theatre and screenplays. With The Ickabog, Rowling makes her long-awaited return to children's literature.
JK Rowling originally conceived this fairy tale more than a decade ago and read it to her 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 shared the modern fairytale of the 'Ickabog' with the world.
Thanks to Covid-19, JK Rowling put it online for free, inviting the millions of children stuck at home around the world to contribute illustrations. After several months of publishing online, it was published as a hardcover book in November.
The Ickabog is not based in the Harry Potter world so readers must have an open mind about it. The world is an entirely new one with new characters and a mysterious myth. This original fairy tale will captivate readers from the very beginning.
The Ickabog takes place in the very fun world of Cornucopia, where everything is perfect. But everything starts to go south and finally hits rock bottom when the new king, Fred The Fearless, begins to trust the wrong people like Spittleworth and Lord Flapoon. These two evil lords trick the people into believing in a mythical monster called The Ickabog and start collecting enormous taxes on its name by promising to protect the citizens from the monster. These taxes burden the people and eventually push the country into complete poverty. Soon the kingdom is in peril while the people live in fear.
To bring hope and happiness to Cornucopia once more, two children - best friends Bert and Daisy - embark on a great adventure to untangle the truth and find out where the real monster lies.
'The Ickabog' is written in the vernacular of a traditional fairy tale, utilising the norms of the genre but with a few modern twists. The story is written from a first-person perspective with a tone that feels like the narrator is reading a bedtime story, so it has a wonderful read-aloud quality.
There are plenty of adventures, battles between good and evil and an ending that carries a lesson, in this book. The story is less about a mythical monster, the Ickabog, and more about the fear instilled by the possibility of such a monster.
Readers will realise, the tale is a direct social commentary on today's culture. As with most fairy tales, the 'moral' of the story lies in how our natural human fear of the unknown and misunderstood can be weaponised and used to enslave and divide us.
The beautiful presentation of this book will bring a smile on your face. It is a hardcover book with a matte dust jacket with gold embossing, 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 of 7-11 from around the world.
Though the story is advertised as a "children's book," it is better to describe it as a dark fairytale. In many ways, it's quite complex for a children's book; in other ways, it is rather too neat for young adults. It will best fit children within 7-12 years old. Unlike the Harry Potter series, adults might not find it entertaining and will have a hard time finishing it. But if you are a Rowling fan, this is a must-have on your shelf.
If you love a good fairytale, this book will not disappoint you. JK Rowling worked her magic again into this page-turner that will keep your imagination running. The suspense, adventure, plot-twists and complex characters really make this book enjoyable. The book has already been translated into 5 different languages and remains free on Ickabog's website, and royalties for the hardcover are donated to the Volant Charitable Trust to assist groups particularly impacted by Covid-19.