J.K. Rowling announced this morning that she is joining children’s book authors the world over in helping out parents eager to entertain their children locked down at home during the current closing of schools and summer camps during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Rowling is releasing today the first two installments of an online serialization of a fairy tale that she wrote more than 10 years ago called The Ickabog. The first installments went live at 10 a.m. ET.

The Ickabog, Rowling wrote on a blog about its origins, “is a story about truth and the abuse of power.” A vocal critic of right-wing U.K. and U.S. politicians and their repressive policies, Rowling adds, “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.”

At least one chapter and up to three of its 34 chapters, Rowling says, will be posted every weekday from today through July 10 on a dedicated website, www.theickabog.com. The series is free to readers.

There’s more good news for Rowling’s fans: print and digital editions of The Ickabog will be published in November in the English language in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and India by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and in the U.S. and Canada by Scholastic. The audiobook will be released simultaneously in the U.S. by Audible.

International editions will publish from November onwards: in France by Gallimard Jeunesse; in Italy by Adriano Salani Editore; in Germany by Carlsen Verlag; in Spain by Ediciones Salamandra; and in Brazil by Editora Rocco.

Rowling is dedicating her royalties from sales of The Ickabog to projects assisting people affected by the pandemic.

In conjunction with the serialization, Rowling’s publishers are holding official competitions for young artists, who are invited to illustrate the chapters as they go live. Winning illustrations will be included in the various published editions of The Ickabog.

According to a release, the competition is launching today in the U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, India, the U.S., and Canada, with other countries following suit. The release states, “It’s a truly international competition between the writer and young artists around the world.” Rowling will not judge submissions, but she will be suggesting key scenes and characters that might be suitable to highlight with visuals.

Also, using #theickabog hashtag, children (or their parents/guardians if they are under 13) are encouraged to post their Ickabog-related drawings on social media platforms. Rowling promises to, the release states, “drop in on Twitter occasionally to pick out some of her favorites.” A selection of images will also be posted on a gallery on the Ickabog website.

Sharing a Family Favorite

According to Rowling’s blog about how The Ickabog came to be written, she wrote it “in fits and starts” between writing Harry Potter books, and intended to publish it after that series concluded in 2007.

However, she added, she decided to “step away from children’s books for a while” after Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released -- a break that lasted five years, during which she wrote an adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, and thrillers under a pseudonym of Robert Galbraith.

The Ickabog went up into the attic,” she explained on her blog, “Over time I came to think of it as a story that belonged to my two younger children, because I’d read it to them in the evenings when they were little, which has always been a happy family memory.”

With the approval of those two children, now teenagers, Rowling took down “a few weeks ago” the manuscript from her attic and brushed it off for release.

“For the last few weeks I’ve been immersed in a fictional world I thought I’d never enter again,” she wrote on her blog. “As I worked to finish the book, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again. This was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my writing life, as The Ickabog’s first two readers told me what they remember from when they were tiny, and demanded the reinstatement of bits they’d particularly liked (I obeyed).”

This story has been updated with information about the audiobook release date.