When J. K. Rowling decided to publish The Ickabog for free online for children stuck at home during lockdown, she had the idea of asking them to illustrate the story.
She invited the budding artists among her young readers to submit pictures inspired by the fairy tale, and its characters. The prize? A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see their artwork published alongside J. K. Rowling’s story in The Ickabog book, when that appeared later in 2020.
In total, entries were received from over 60,000 children across the world. And the quality and imagination of their artwork made choosing the 34 winners of each edition a task that even someone as “brave” as King Fred the Fearless would have found daunting. You can see the winners’ wonderful work below…
The Winning Illustrations
Where did the idea for The Ickabog come from? Is this a Harry Potter or Wizarding World story?
The Ickabog is an original, one-off story and is a fairy tale, set in an imaginary country called Cornucopia. The idea came to me well over a decade ago and was first written as a story for my two younger children, becoming a personal family favourite.
The Ickabog is not a Harry Potter story, nor is it set in the wizarding world, though the idea for The Ickabog came to me while I was still writing Harry Potter.
You can read more about the story of The Ickabog here.
How did The Ickabog come to be published?
After the last Harry Potter book I took a break and decided to write a book for adults. The first draft of The Ickabog went up into the attic, where it remained for nearly a decade. Then, during the Covid-19 pandemic, I had the idea of getting The Ickabog back down and publishing it as free instalments online, for children in lockdown. My now teenage children were touchingly enthusiastic, and I found myself once again immersed in the world of Cornucopia.
As I worked to finish the story, I started reading chapters nightly to the family again, just as I had done when my children were little. 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)!
What age is the story suitable for?
The story is primarily aimed at seven to twelve year olds. It’s a story best read aloud, so if you have someone to read it to you, even better!
What was special about the release of The Ickabog?
The Ickabog was first released for free as an online serialisation during lockdown in 2020. I posted a chapter (or two, or three) every weekday between May and July, to help entertain children, parents and carers confined at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
I think The Ickabog worked well for serialisation because it was written as a read-aloud book.
What was The Ickabog illustration competition?
Having decided to publish the story, I thought how wonderful it would be if children were involved as The Ickabog unfolded by illustrating the story and its colourful characters for the book.
An illustration competition was held in 2020 in each territory, and after an incredible global response from children, the winners of each artwork competition were chosen by publishers and featured in the book for thousands of people to see! You can read more about the competition, and see the winning illustrations, here.
Can I still share my pictures?
The publishers’ illustration competitions are now all closed but do keep drawing and ask a parent or guardian to share on social media – we would still love to see your pictures!
You – or your parent or guardian if you are under thirteen – can share your pictures on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #TheIckabog.
Where can I read the story?
The Ickabog is now available in print, audio and e-book, and I am delighted to say is translated into over 26 languages, for children around the world to enjoy. Each local edition of the book includes illustrations by the winners of a competition in that territory.
Were proceeds from the book donated to charity?
Yes, I donated my royalties to my charitable trust, The Volant Trust to assist vulnerable groups who have been particularly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK and internationally.
To my absolute astonishment, sales of the book have enabled Volant to so far distribute millions of pounds to charities helping mitigate the wide-ranging effects of Covid-19. You can read more about the donation here.
Will there be a movie adaptation? Will there be a stage play?
At the moment there are no plans to make a movie or stage adaptation of The Ickabog.