Saturday, August 6, 2011

Kid Konnection: The Candymakers

Every Saturday, I host a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books. This week, I'm going to share with you a terrific book by one of my favorite middle grade authors.

Summary: Four children have been chosen to compete in a national competition to find the tastiest confection in the country. Who will invent a candy more delicious than the Oozing Crunchorama or the Neon Lightning Chew?

Logan, the Candymaker's son, who can detect the color of chocolate by touch alone?

Miles, the boy who is allergic to merry-go-rounds and the color pink?

Daisy, the cheerful girl who can lift a fifty-pound lump of taffy like it's a feather?

Or Philip, the suit-and-tie wearing boy who's always scribbling in a secret notebook?

This sweet, charming, and cleverly crafted story, told from each contestant's perspective, is filled with mystery, friendship, and juicy revelations. -- Little, Brown

Booking Daughter has been raving about THE CANDYMAKERS by Wendy Mass ever since she first read it over a year ago. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of this book at the 2010 BEA, and she was thrilled beyond belief. She devoured it and has re-read it at least four times since (I know... how does she do that?) So when THE CANDYMAKERS was chosen for our August Mother-Daughter Book Club meeting, she was ecstatic that I finally "had" to read it.

And she was so right! I loved THE CANDYMAKERS and I've found that Wendy Mass never disappoints. There's a reason that she's one of our favorite authors out there (of course, having the opportunity to meet her a few months back didn't hurt either!) I just appreciated everything about this book -- from the characters (they were fantastic!), to the writing, to the overall messages and themes. THE CANDYMAKERS is just a perfect middle grade book.

THE CANDYMAKERS tells the story of four children, Logan, Miles, Daisy, and Philip, who are competing in the Annual Candymakers Contest. They each have to come up with an original candy idea and then learn to make it. Naturally, each of the kids have very different backgrounds and personalities; however, they ultimately learn some important ideas about friendship and teamwork. It's just a delightful story that encompasses a mystery and lots of secrets. And it's filled with the most amazing-sounding candy. So if you are a chocoholic, this is my warning to you!

There are so many terrific things about this book that I know I can only touch upon a few of them in this review. So that being said, you need to read this book for yourself. However, one thing that I loved about this novel was how the story unfolded. Ms. Mass decided to write this book in sections -- one for each narrator and then a final section by Logan, the first narrator. The story is told with each character's version of events, and the reader learns more and more background (i.e. secrets) as the story progresses. Because of how the characters' stories unraveled, I found myself becoming very caught up in this novel; and eventually, I couldn't set it down. Ms. Mass did an outstanding job of capturing the feel of these tween characters in addition to keeping the reader on the edge of his or her seat.

Another thing that I loved about this novel were the characters. These four kids were extremely special. I don't want to give too much away, but I adored Logan, the candymaker's son. He's my favorite because of his inner strength, but I ended up liking all of the kids by the end of the story (although I have to admit it did take me awhile to appreciate one of them!) In addition to the children, I also adored so many of the adult characters in the book. Logan's parents were amazing as were many of the workers in the candy factory. Of course, this novel had its fair share of questionable characters too (it was a mystery and it did need some potential suspects); however, as a mom, I liked that many of the adult figures acted as role models.

And finally, I loved the mystery and suspense that occurred in THE CANDYMAKERS. I think this novel had the perfect blend of mystery and action; and for that reason, I think it will appeal to a lot of middle grade readers. Not only is this book perfect for boys and girls, but it also had a lot of scenes that will appeal to reluctant readers. For example, one of the characters ('s the girl) had some pretty big secrets along with some very cool gadgets!

I am really looking forward to discussing THE CANDYMAKERS with my daughter and her friends. I'm anxious to see what they thought of the characters and their actions as well as the ultimate resolution. Of course, I'm also excited to see what types of food (by that I mean, candies) the hostesses will serve. I wasn't able to find an actual reading guide, but I don't think you'd have any problem coming up with things to discuss. Some of the topics you might want to explore include friendship, loyalty, revenge, parent/child relationships, self esteem, greed, loss, forgiveness, and teamwork.

THE CANDYMAKERS is an excellent book for middle-graders. The characters are complex, the story in intriguing, and the messages are fantastic. Highly recommended!

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!


bermudaonion said...

You know I love Wendy Mass! When I went to the tea for Kathryn Erskine, a librarian who was in attendance mentioned this book and how much she loved it. It sounds like I need to read it soon!

Jenna (Novella Reviews) said...

That book would make me hungry. I have a hard enough time with the Food Channel. ha ha.

I am the mom of a boy who is in seventh grade and has dyslexia. It's tough finding books for him that he wants to read and that are at his level. The Candymakers has a Lexile measure of 740L (you can look up titles and scores here - Believe it or not, this book would be a little difficult for him.

I wish more authors and publishers would list the reading level of their books. Not the ages that would be interested in the title - the reading level. Like a shoe size. It would help parents and teachers so much.


Laura Fabiani said...

Wendy Mass is my daughter's favorite author. We just finished reading her latest novel 13 Gifts which will be released in Sept and we LOVED it. I will be posting my review next week. Candymakers is on our list. It also sounds like a typical Mass book, full of mystery, suspense, friendships and twists and turns. Looking forward to reading it too!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I've heard so many good things about this book and this author! I have to try one!

stacybuckeye said...

This books looks positively yummy. I remember the days I read books over and over. To be a kid again :)

I thought I'd join you this week.