Friday, January 7, 2011

Review - "The Candymakers"

Four children.  Four contestants.  Four chances to change the candy world.  This is what is offered to Miles, Daisy, Phillip and Logan when they are chosen to take part in the Confectionary Association's annual new candy contest.  A little bit of Willy Wonka and a little bit of The Mysterious Benedict Society, Wendy Mass' The Candymakers brings lightness and heart to the story of four very different kids and the chance of a lifetime.
            A lot of this lightness comes in the form of Mass' characters, starting with Logan Sweet, the Candymaker's son.  He's lived for his twelve short years at the Life is Sweet candy factory, where his father, like his grandfather before him, makes such delicious confections as the Gummysaurus Rex, Icy Mint Blobs and Neon Yellow Lightning Chews.  Logan is full of sweetness and humor, and a natural charm that makes him a friend to all those around him.  He also has a way with candy.  He can charm the bees in the beehive, knows individual ingredients by taste and can even determine the color and type of chocolate by touch.  His dream is to win the new candy contest with a revolutionary product called the Bubbletastic ChocoRocket, the "first candy in history to turn from chocolate to gum...and back again."  Joining Logan at Life is Sweet are Miles O'Leary, who talks knowledgably of the afterlife and is allergic to pancakes and the color pink, Daisy Carpenter, who wears mismatched socks and rides a horse to the factory and Phillip Ransford III, who comes dressed for business and never eats candy.  It rots your teeth.
            In The Candymakers each of the four is given a segment, and the first two days are seen through each of their eyes.  This allows for a distinctive experience, and a delayed release of information that proves very effective in proving the old adage true.  Things really are rarely what they seem.  I found a one revelation about Logan when seen through the eyes of another to be particularly moving, and felt just the faintest touch of the author's presence that made me think back on Logan's segment with an altered mindset.  There is also a bit of a genre blending that threw me for a loop at first.  I wasn’t sure if I liked the change, the intrusion into my sweet story of something fantastic and a little hard.  But the change grew on me, just as the character’s truth and innate worthiness grew on me.
            I don’t quite know what to make of Wendy Mass.  Of her books that I have read, not one is like the other.  She’s a bit of a wild card to me, and I never know what to expect, except for beautifully drawn characters thrown into some kind of unexpected venture.  The Candymakers is no different.  Four complicated, unique children running wild in a candy store is a great start to an adventure, and Mass expertly navigates everyone through mysteries, mistaken identities, corporate conspiracies and lots and lots of candy.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass
2010, Little, Brown and Company
Library copy

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