J.K. Rowling unearthed an old work for her new children's book that's free online
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J.K. Rowling unearthed an old work for her new children's book that's free online

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J.K. Rowling on Feb. 12, 2017 at the BAFTA awards in London. Rowling is publishing a new children's book online.

J.K. Rowling on Feb. 12, 2017 at the BAFTA awards in London. Rowling is publishing a new children's book online. (Matt Crossick/PA Photos/Abaca Press/TNS)

J.K. Rowling is publishing a new children's book online.

The "Harry Potter" author released the first two chapters of "The Ickabog" on a new website Tuesday, explaining that the story will be released for free over the next seven weeks. Posted every weekday, each installment will be "a chapter (or two or three)."

"I had the idea for 'The Ickabog' a long time ago and read it to my two younger children chapter by chapter each night while I was working on it," Rowling wrote in a note introducing her latest work. "It isn't Harry Potter and it doesn't include magic. This is an entirely different story."

In a note on her official website, Rowling explained that she had written most of the first draft of the story between "Harry Potter" books and originally planned to publish "The Ickabog" after the last book in the "Harry Potter" series was out. She shelved it in favor of taking a break from publishing and then pivoting to books for adult readers.

After the release of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," Rowling has published "The Casual Vacancy" and a series of crime novels under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith.

According to her note, Rowling is revisiting "The Ickabog" now because the global coronavirus crisis has led to kids staying at home after schools were shut down. She has pledged to donate all royalties when the book is published to "groups who've been particularly impacted by the pandemic."

Rowling has also announced a contest for illustrations to be included in the print and ebook editions of the story. The contests, judged by regional publishers, invites children ages 7-12 to submit drawings to accompany the chapters for a chance to win a signed copy of the completed book and a prize package for their school or library. Rowling will post suggestions for illustrations with each chapter.

"'The Ickabog' is a story about truth and the abuse of power," Rowling wrote in the note on her website. "To forestall one obvious question: the idea came to me well over a decade ago, so it isn't intended to be read as a response to anything that's happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country."

The English-language print, e-book and audiobook editions of "The Ickabog" will be released in November.

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

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