J.Ok. Rowling’s New Non-Potter Youngsters’s E-book
By J.Ok. Rowling
With illustrations by the winners of The Ickabog Illustration Competitors
It’s been 13 years since J. Ok. Rowling revealed her ultimate “Harry Potter” guide, ending a collection that remodeled a technology of youngsters into readers and reminded a technology of fogeys how thrilling it was to be a baby. I learn the books aloud to my children, however I additionally raced via them alone in nice grasping gulps late into the evening, determined to search out out what occurred subsequent.
How thrilling, then, to study that Rowling has used her pandemic time to supply a brand new, non-Potter youngsters’s guide. (She has been busy alongside the best way with different tasks, after all, and just lately waded right into a messy public argument about transgender rights.)
At first, “The Ickabog” looks like a traditional fairy story, charming however slight. It’s set in Cornucopia, a pleasing kingdom dominated by the useless however innocent King Fred the Fearless. (He dubbed himself Fearless “as a result of it sounded good with ‘Fred,’ but additionally as a result of he’d as soon as managed to catch and kill a wasp all by himself, when you didn’t rely 5 footmen and the boot boy.”)
Rowling loves phrases and delights in aptronyms for locations and folks. She has named Cornucopia’s areas after their culinary specialties: Chouxville for pastry, Kurdsburg for cheese, Baronstown for meat, Jeroboam for wine. To the north are the scrubby, fairly disagreeable Marshlands, dwelling to sickly sheep and a fearsome creature referred to as the Ickabog. Nobody appears to have seen it — its look and monstrous powers range relying on the whims of the storyteller — however it’s the bogeyman that retains youngsters in line and haunts their goals at evening.
The dominion’s peaceable equilibrium is shattered when Fred’s chief seamstress dies of overwork, an unlucky occasion with snowballing penalties that “historical past books of Cornucopia would later file as the start of all of the troubles.” And troubles they’re. Energy falls into the palms of two diabolical courtiers, Lord Spittleworth (the lean, crafty one) and Lord Flapoon (the bibulous, sycophantic one), who unfold discord by perpetuating the lie that the Ickabog is actual and that the one strategy to shield the populace is by imposing martial regulation. Very quickly in any respect, Cornucopia turns into a spot of violence and concern by which dissenters are imprisoned, youngsters are separated from their households and residents are pressured to take part in a mass delusion to prop up a corrupt regime.
If something sounds acquainted, it’s coincidence, Rowling explains in her foreword; she started the guide years in the past as a bedtime story for her youngsters. It wasn’t till the pandemic hit that she pulled the half-written manuscript from the attic and began to work on it once more, attempting out new materials on her now-teenagers and releasing it (free, initially) in serialized type on her web site. The chapters are quick; the story lends itself to being learn aloud; and the expertise is drastically enhanced by winsome illustrations contributed by youngsters aged 7-12 who gained a contest this summer time.
Rowling has saved her glorious humorousness and prodigious creativeness, however she has develop into a clearer and extra disciplined author over time, much less inclined to lard her narrative with extraneous exposition. The story is horrifying at instances, however she leavens it with a light-weight contact and a way of ethical rectitude that lead us to suspect (accurately, because it seems) that each one will come proper ultimately.
What elevates “The Ickabog” past a well-known author’s fanciful story is the wondrous plot twist that comes towards the tip, and the sheer delight that follows. I learn this guide at dwelling in November, with the chilly drawing in and ambulance sirens within the distance, a harbinger of a tough winter to return. It made me weep with pleasure.
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