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Water cooler: J.K. Rowling releases first chapters of ‘The Ickabog’

Author J.K. Rowling  upon her arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,’ in London in 2018. (Joel C Ryan / AP)
Author J.K. Rowling upon her arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald,’ in London in 2018. (Joel C Ryan / AP)
From staff and wire reports

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 e-book editions of the story. The contest, 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.

Brain train

Test your knowledge with today’s trivia question

What position did Harry Potter play in Quidditch

  • Keeper
  • Bludger
  • Seeker
  • Chaser

Tuesday’s answer: 47

Get outside

Everyone is itching to get out of the house, but quarantine isn’t done just quite yet.

With this streak of warmer weather headed our way, now is a fantastic time to indulge in some backyard camping. Spend a night under the stars instead of in that room you’ve been hanging out in for two months.

Here is your guide to have a great night (or maybe a couple of nights if you can get away with it) of backyard camping.

  • Start by pitching a tent for the full effect. If you don’t have a tent, you could use the garage or create an outdoor fort – just make sure to check there’s no rain in the forecast.
  • Explore your new territory. Have a scavenger hunt to see what you can find hiding in the wild. List bugs, flowers, rocks and plants that you’ll have to find.
  • Build a backyard fire pit. As of now, there are no burn restrictions in Spokane County, so it’s a great time for a small fire. Make sure to have an adult help to ensure that it is safe. Keep a bucket of water nearby for emergencies and to put out the fire before you go to sleep.
  • This one is a given – but bring s’mores supplies. Try to make dinner outside, too, if you’re up to it. Anything that you can put on a stick works pretty well.
  • Make a bug bomb. Repel bugs by throwing bundled sage, mint and lavender in the fire. The strong scent of the herbs naturally repels bugs and prevents you from waking up with bug bites.
  • Tell stories. Usually, you would tell spooky stories since you’re naturally more vulnerable and scared sitting in the dark outdoors, but if not everyone likes scary stories, any will do. If you want to make some of your own, use your surroundings to help inspire your imagination.
  • Bring in some entertainment. Play some music on your radio or streaming device, or even bring out your instruments if you have them. You could also bring a sheet and projector outside for an outdoor movie viewable from the door of your tent.

Looking ahead

June is just around the corner! Here are some facts about this new month that starts Monday.

  • June is the month with the longest daylight hours of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, but the short-est daylight hours of the year in the Southern Hemisphere. That is because beginning on the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice (the first day of summer), the Earth’s axis is positioned at its maximum tilt toward the sun.
  • The Latin name for June is Junius. In the Roman calendar, the month is named after the Roman goddess Juno, the Roman equivalent of Hera in the gods of Greek mythology.
  • The June birthstone is a moonstone or pearl. The month’s flower is a rose or honeysuckle.
  • June’s holiday includes remembrance of D-Day, Flag Day, Juneteenth, Summer Solstice and Father’s Day.
  • D-Day, June 6, marks the day that the Western Allied effort landed soldiers on the beaches of Normandy, France.
  • Summer solstice, which happens June 20 except on leap years like 2020 in which it is on June 21, marks the longest day of the year.
  • June used to have 29 days, but in 46 B.C. Julius Caesar gave June 30 days instead of 29 when he reformed the Roman calendar into the Julian calendar that we use to this day.
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