Rowling in the deep

Updated: Jun 01, 2020, 09:43 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

The Harry Potter author has been releasing chapters of her new children's book online for free. We invited a fan to give them a read

An illustration by nine-year-old Maya shared by her mother Laura Haugen, which Rowling applauded. Pic/@lhaugenwrites on Twitter
An illustration by nine-year-old Maya shared by her mother Laura Haugen, which Rowling applauded. Pic/@lhaugenwrites on Twitter

What sets JK Rowling apart is her ability to seamlessly weave an entire universe out of the tiniest of things — a wand, for instance. And at a time when imagination is restricted to the walls of our homes, the author of the Harry Potter (HP) series surprised fans with a new children's book that will release chapter by chapter until July 10, and will be available online for free reading. At the time of writing this piece, 10 chapters were uploaded on the book's website.

Titled The Ickabog, it's her first venture into children's writing apart from the HP-related titles. On her website, Rowling mentioned that the idea came to her while she was still writing HP. "During the lockdown, she decided to bring The Ickabog out of the attic — most suitable for seven- to nine-year-olds to read it by themselves.

JK Rowling. Pic/Getty Images
JK Rowling. Pic/Getty Images

So, we invited a city-based Potterhead and mother of two to review it. Having heard the announcement of the new book from her husband, Vashi resident Candice Martins, 39, immediately got down to reading it. Rowling had asserted that the story isn't a response on anything happening in the world right now, but the narrative for Martins reflected the times. The first two chapters set up the location — Cornucopia, a prosperous, tiny country. Eventually you're introduced to darker elements: a superficial, selfish King Fred the Fearless, a shabby, ignored place called the Marshlands and the legend of the Ickabog.

"Rowling is quite particular about stereotypes. There's this line for instance, about Lady Eslanda who Fred likes, which says that she was 'as dark and beautiful as Fred was fair and handsome.' So, this is unlike a traditional fairy tale where being dark is equated with being ugly. She is normalising colour which I feel is very important and I'm quite particular about what I read to my children," Martins says.

Candice Martins
Candice Martins

Another example Martins tells us about is regarding the friendship between two children Bert and Daisy; it is Daisy who protects Bert from being bullied (no knight in shining armour here), loves carpentry and wears overalls. "But Rowling doesn't write it like it's something out of the ordinary. She simply tells you a story," Martins says, adding that the chapter-by-chapter approach works for her since it offers time to ponder as well as serves as a good excuse when kids can't get enough of the story. "So, you can just tell them that the next chapter hasn't been released yet."

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