The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

“Congratulations, Future Candymakers! You have been accepted to compete in the Annual New Candy Contest sponsored by the Confectionary Association.  The following participants from Region III will report to the Life Is Sweet candy factory two days prior to the contest: Logan Sweet, Miles O’Leary, Daisy Carpenter, and Philip Ransford III.”

Logan Sweet is the son of the Candymaker.  His father owns the Life Is Sweet candy factory, where they grow their own cocoa beans, keep hives of bees, and can identify the cow who gave the milk by the way the milk tastes.  There is a library, a taffy room, a tropical room, and…a mystery.

Logan has a lot to live up to: both his father and grandfather won the Annual New Candy Contest in years past.  However, he just feels clumsy around recipes; it seems that when he’s trying to create candy, nothing goes right.  How will he manage to invent a candy good enough to win, if he can’t even keep his sugar from boiling over?

The other contestants are just as diverse and interesting as the candies that Life is Sweet produces.  Miles is obsessed with the afterlife, carries around a life vest, and is allegedly allergic to pink and pancakes.  Daisy can never match her socks and is best friends with Magpie, her horse.  Philip keeps a hidden notebook and wears suits that are just as stiff and starchy as his personality.  However, things aren’t as they seem in this sweet mystery.  Each of the characters has a secret, and someone is trying to steal the secret ingredient at Life is Sweet and sabotage the contest! Worse still, if the secret ingredient is discovered, it could mean financial ruin for the factory, and Life is Sweet could lose all of their business.  Logan has to get to the bottom of things before his family loses everything!

Ok. Here’s the thing: my love for candy is second only to my love for reading.  I even made up a weekly holiday, called Candysunday.  You know how most Sundays are full of getting ready for the week, which means grocery shopping and homework and laundry?  Well, that’s a gloomy way to start the week, I’ve always thought.  Candysunday is my antidote for it: basically, I don’t eat any candy during the week, but on Sundays, I can have as much as I want! So, in honor of Candysunday this week, I wanted to tell you about this darling book.

At first glance, the splendid candy factory setting makes you think of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but even though the factory is delightful and similar in some ways to Dahl’s, this book is more of a clever mystery than a quirky adventure.  The format is interesting: each of the four contestants tells his or her side of the story.  We not only learn their secret hopes and insecurities, but also what they know about the mystery.  Who has been trying to steal the secret ingredients?  Is there a scandal brewing at the New Candy Contest?

Readers will be drawn to these quirky characters, and appreciate the very real anxieties woven into a fanciful plot.  Without being didactic, the four separate storytellers subtly illustrates how easy it is to make assumptions about others’ actions, and the underlying message of the story is one championing collaboration, rather than competition.  It is a gentle read, sweet without being saccharine, and offbeat without being wacky.  It would be a good read-aloud for families with older elementary-school children, and a read-alone for sixth and seventh graders.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://www.wendymass.com

Mass, Wendy. The Candymakers. Little, Brown: New York, 2010. 453 pp.  Ages 10-14.

If you liked this one, be sure to check out the original candy wonderland of Charlie in the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  If you liked the mystery part, try Blue Balliet’s The Danger Box or Chasing Vermeer, or The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

Oh, and one more thing:  the Pepsicles and Oozing Crunchoramas sound amazing!

 

 

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