This is Gina Blaxill’s second novel of the twisted (or fractured) fairy tale genre, having published All the better to see you in 2021. Cleverly, Blaxill takes the familiar tale of Hansel and Gretel and, rather than changing the plot of the original, works with the key events of the story but fleshes out the space between the events with which we are familiar. So, the elements that we would expect to see are there: the attempt at abandonment of Hansel and Gretel by their father and stepmother; the successful abandonment; the children’s discovery of a house of sweets; the presence of a cannibalistic witch and her grisly end and the return home of the children. But there is also a lot more.
Traditional and fairy tales rarely stray into the psychological processes that lead characters to act in particular ways. In Good enough to eat, Baxill exploits this lack of shading to explore the characters in-depth, and how prevailing conventions about gender and class could poison people’s lives to the point that they, themselves, poison the lives of those around them – even to the point of baking the village boys in an oven.
Good enough to eat is not an easy read, but for children and young people over the age of 10, it provides a beautifully crafted exploration of desperation and the lengths that people will go to escape oppressive environments (familial and cultural). While it would be suitable for a school library, it would also work well as a guided reader, particularly if aiming to develop aspects of critical literacy.
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