I was really looking forward to reading this because it’s written by Wendy Mass, whose books I generally enjoy and also because my students were really excited about it when it came out. But once I started reading, I was filled with dread. There was a candy factory. There was a contest. I was having unpleasant flashbacks to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. After I got over that, there was the fact that it just wasn’t anything special. A boy is the son of Candymaker. He is excited to enter the candy inventing contest. Will he win? His father and his grandfather before him won and he’s certain to be a disappointment if he doesn’t follow in their footsteps. It’s a perfectly reasonable premise for a story, but distinctly lacking in spark. But I soldiered on through the first section which follows the story of Logan, the candymaker’s son.
However, it doesn’t take long for the whole story to gain interest and dimension. The second section follows a different contest entrant, Miles. Mass has plenty of tricks up her sleeve and from that point on, you are forced to continually re-evaluate what you thought was true. Requiring a high level of inference skills, The Candymakers will absolutely get readers thinking about the story and questioning what they were sure was true. It’s a great opportunity for book discussion or teaching because of the skills necessary (inference and prediction especially) to make sense of the story.
I am an absolute sucker for any book that turns the reader’s perspective upside down and this was no exception. Kid tested by my students, I would say that this would be a hit with fourth grade readers and above. Some advanced third graders might be able to manage it, but would likely benefit from discussions about how the truth of the story shifts.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – Max jokes that Logan has a way with charming girls. Daisy is reading a romance. There’s some discussion as to whether a girl is pretty, but both boys admit they don’t usually spend time thinking about girls. One boy liked a girl once, but she moved away. A boy repeatedly thinks a girl is pretty. One boy teases a girl that a boy likes her. A boy hugs a girl out of relief.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore –One boy keeps talking about what will happen in the afterlife. A queen bee dies, which depresses the other bees. A girl playfully kicks a boy in the shins. A child potentially witnessed a death and is traumatized by it.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – A character is haunted (not in the ghost sense, rather in the emotionally scarred sense) by a past tragedy. Another character has disfiguring scars. A character has lost a parent.