Allison's Book Bag

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass

Posted on: May 15, 2015

Candy. Friendship. Betrayal. It’s taken me a year to finally read The Candymakers by Wendy Mass, but it was well worth the wait. I love the oodles of descriptions about candy, the tantalizing foreshadowing about all the twists that will happen, and the complexity of the four main characters.

A year ago, I started to read The Candymakers aloud to a struggling reader. Immediately, the two of us were entranced. What else would you expect when the literary air is thick with possibilities—or with the smell of chocolate, caramel, nougat, and spun sugar? What else would you expect when every day the main character breathed to the rhythm of candy machines powering up for the day? If these descriptions aren’t tantalizing enough, how would you feel about waking up to the sizzle of licorice root on the stove and the scraping of cinnamon bark into the cereal? Whenever there was a spare moment, my student and I eagerly allowed ourselves to become absorbed by the tale of Logan who spent his days making candy with the purpose of making the whole world smile. Sadly, my student and I made the mistake of picking up this mammoth-sized fantasy in the last quarter of school and ran out of time to read its four hundred and fifty pages together.

Imagine my excitement then when this spring another struggling reader elected to read The Candymakers. This time I didn’t wait until my student and I could read together, but instead took The Candymakers home with me. As I progressed through its detailed pages, I discovered how reminiscent it is of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Both have a contest. Lots of candy. Contestants. A rival chocolatier. Even a spy. And did I mention lots of candy? There are some notable differences between the two stories. In The Candymakers, the contest isn’t about earning a winning ticket but instead about making the best candy. There are four instead of five contestants. The Life is Sweet candy factory is already in trouble, because a rival chocolatier wants to buy it out. Finally, a spy is sent not to steal a recipe but rather a secret ingredient.

When I asked my current student about her reason for picking The Candymakers to read, her answer was twofold. First, she loves candy. Her point is valid. Anyone who loves sweets will surely appreciate this book. The first fourth pretty much just takes readers on a tour of the Life is Sweet candy factory, as well as teaches the basics of making candy at the Life is Sweet candy factory. If Mass had written about nothing else, and had supplemented her story with visuals, I still would have loved The Candymakers. An interesting piece of trivia is that Mass apparently sent out a questionnaire to young people and asked them to invent a candy. She then used their answers in the book!

Second, my student picked The Candymakers because of its depth. Every character has a secret. There’s Logan, the son of the candymaker. He can detect every last ingredient in a piece of candy, but can’t figure out how to heat up or cool down a mixture of those ingredients. Logan also has scars that prior to this contest has given his parents a reason to keep him out of the public eye. Then there’s Miles, who also has secrets. For example, why is he allergic to pancakes, rowboats, and the color pink? Next up is Daisy, whose parents never deliver her to the candy factory. Instead one day she’s dropped off by a boy on a motorcycle and another day Daisy rides in on a horse. Everyone wants to know why the girl who can lift a lump of fifty-pounds of taffy as if it were a feather would bother with reading romances? Finally, there is Philip. No one can figure out why he signed up for the candy-making contest when candy makes him sick to the stomach. Like the others, he too has secrets. For example, why is he always scribbling in  a notebook?

Initially, when the plot twists began to happen, I felt a little disappointed. As I wrote above, the story of Logan and the Life is Sweet candy factory had been keeping me absorbed. Soon enough though, besides simply enjoying the world of candy factories, I ended up appreciating the extra layers to The Candymakers. My only other regret was reaching the last page. And, now is you’ll excuse me, I’m going to indulge in some chocolate. 🙂

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

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