Book – The Ickabog
Author – JK Rowling
Year – 2020
Pages – 281
Genre – Fantasy
Bought for me by Beth, Maddie and Ella
Every year for Christmas, I recieve a nice selection of books, and this year was no different. What was somewhat unusual however, was that they were prodominatly non fiction. I guess that the last year has left an impact in several different ways, so expect my reading to include BLM literature, beer making, the science of cooking and, well, Patsy Kensit’s autobiography this year. In all of it, I recieved only one fiction book, and that was a recommendation from my little sister, Beth, who read this with my nieces Maddie and Ella over lockdown. I chose it as my first book of the year, as I have been told that they have drawn some amazing pictures to go with it, and I cannot wait to see them.
The Ickabog is a mythical creature in the land of Cornacopia – at least that’s what the residents believe, until a shepherd approaches the vain king to tell him that his dog has been eaten by it! A visit north to slay the beast ends in a tragedy that changes the kingdom from top to bottom, as the threat of the Ickabog impacts everyone who lives there.
Rowling released this book over lockdown, with a chapter coming out each day for a couple of months. It was a great idea for lockdown and I can see how exciting it must have been to be waiting on each chapter. Many, many moons ago, I remember The Green Mile by Stephen King being released over a period of months, section by section, and how excited I was waiting for the next installment to come out each time. This novel is written perfectly for this, with each section containing just enough to keep the excitement going.
I have listed it as a fantasy book here, but in all honesty it is a fairy tale first and foremost. The characters are straight cartoons, the plot fits the archetypal fairy tale, and like many of the very best fairy tales, it is not afraid to show the more squeamish side of what is happening in the world of Cornacopia. I absolutely love this in a children’s book, as I think the possibility of things becoming too sanitised is always looming. Rowling has never been scared of that in the Harry Potter series, and she isn’t here.
I like that the book has a clear moral message as well – it is all about the way that people can be hoodwinked by those in power, and about how we all have our parts to play in making society fair and just and holding those in power accountable. It has hugely dismayed me over the past couple of years to see JK Rowling’s approach to the issue of trans-rights, particularly as until then I had really respected her opinions on many political ideas. This has been a reminder of the nicer and more accepting side of things, and whilst I don’t know if I will ever feel the warmth towards her as a writer that I previously did, it is good to see some more progressive ideas in her work. There are much cleverer people than I who have said far more eloquent things about Rowling, and I would urge you to seek those out instead of my ramblings though.
There is no denying that this book is set at an age a little younger than mine – that is the consequence of being a fully grown adult who is reading fairy tales – but I also cannot deny that I did enjoy it. I am trying to do some reading every night before bed again this year, and I found myself really looking forward to this with the promise of The Ickabog to push on with. A very recommended family read.