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By Wendy Mass
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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.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase
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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:
Philip Ransford III
SPRING HAVEN HERALD
The results are finally in from the Confectionary Association's annual new candy contest. Thirty-two 12-year-olds from around the country were invited to create a brand-new candy to enter in this highly respected hundred-year-old competition. According to insiders, the competition was particularly fierce this year. The contest day was marked by surprises that rocked the very foundation of the candy industry, including the shocking news that one of the country's most celebrated candy factories will close its doors. The winning candy will soon be available nationwide. However, the factory that will manufacture the winning candy has not yet been decided.
Logan didn't have to open his eyes to know that morning had arrived. The sweet smell of cotton candy wafting into his room worked better than any alarm clock. He rolled over so his nose nearly touched the air vent.
You might think that if your bedroom were inside a candy factory, your bed would be shaped like a lollypop. But Logan had gotten rid of the lollypop-shaped bed last month when he turned twelve—it had become uncomfortable not being able to bend his knees while he slept.
Logan loved the start of a new day, when the air was thick with possibilities (and, in his case, with the smell of chocolate, caramel, nougat, and spun sugar). The breeze through his open window brought the room to life. The pages of his comic books rose and fell as if they were taking deep breaths. Paper drawings on the walls fluttered. The fur of his stuffed dragon rippled, making it appear to be moving very quickly without actually moving at all.
Logan focused his attention on his breath, as he did first thing every morning. He breathed in and breathed out. With each breath he recounted the things he was grateful for. The new day. Being here to enjoy it. His parents. The factory. All the people who worked there.
In… out… in… out. He matched his rhythm with the familiar hums and whirs of the candy machines powering up for the day. The sizzle of licorice root on the stove made him pause, mid-inhale. Soon his mother would start scraping cinnamon bark onto the oatmeal she made each morning, and he always liked to be in the kitchen for that part.
"So what are we gonna do today?" his dad sang outside Logan's door.
"Make some candy!" Logan replied automatically, his voice still scratchy.
"And why are we gonna do it?" Without waiting for Logan to answer, his father continued the chant as he did every morning. "To make the whole world smile!"
To make the whole world smile, Logan hummed to himself as he hopped out of bed to dress. All the factory workers wore white collared shirts and tan pants (those who worked outdoors wore shorts). Logan didn't officially work for the factory yet, but he wouldn't think of wearing anything but the official uniform during the day.
Plus all his play clothes were in piles on the floor. Truth be told, most things in Logan's room were in piles on the floor. His parents had long since given up asking him to clean it. Who could spend time cleaning when there were so many exciting things to do right outside the door?
To his surprise, he heard his mother beginning to scrape the cinnamon bark already. He turned to look at the clock on his desk. They usually didn't eat breakfast for another half hour. Then his breath caught in his throat. The other contestants in the Confectionary Association's annual New Candy Contest would be arriving any minute! How could he have forgotten? But even as he asked himself that question, he knew the answer: having three other kids spend two whole days at the Life Is Sweet candy factory was so out of the ordinary, so different from his usual routine, that he hadn't really believed it would ever happen. Their factory had never hosted any contestants before, and this year he was finally competing himself!
The only problem was that Logan didn't have much experience with other kids. Sure, he played Name That Cloud on the lawn with the workers' kids sometimes. But most of them were much younger. The factory's annual picnic used to bring people from all over Spring Haven to the grounds, but it had been so long since the factory held a picnic that he barely remembered them. Every time he asked his parents why they'd stopped holding picnics, their answers were always vague. Too busy, too hard to control the crowd, that sort of thing. Eventually he just stopped asking.
Up till now his life's steady routine hadn't wavered much. His only outings were short trips into town to visit the local candy shops, an occasional checkup at the doctor or dentist, and the family's annual trip to the Confectionary Association's convention. Not that daily life at the factory didn't bring surprises—it did, every day. But he usually knew what to expect—a candy machine that had ground to a halt, a clogged irrigation tunnel on the farm, the labels for the pink Sour Fingers getting stuck on the blue Sour Fingers container, or some other issue that could usually be fixed with a squirt or two of oil. If only making friends were as easy.
He raced into the bathroom to perform the quickest facewashing–toothbrushing in recorded history. He reached for his rarely used comb, only to watch it slip right through his fingers. He was used to dropping things. A career as a ballplayer was not in his future.
Holding the comb firmly this time, he ran it through his shaggy hair, wincing as he encountered a knot. With his father's olive skin and his mother's wheat-colored hair, Logan resembled no one else he'd ever seen. He didn't look in the mirror very often, but when he did, he was always surprised to see he'd gotten older.
He arrived in the kitchen (sliding the last ten feet in his socks) just as his mom pulled a jug of fresh milk from the dumbwaiter built into the wall. She swung the metal door shut and the old gears creaked into action, pulling the tray back down to the Dairy Processing Room. The Candymaker took the pitcher and poured out three creamy white glasses. He took a big gulp from the largest one, nodded in satisfaction, and flicked a switch labeled MILK on the wall. This signaled the farmers to send the milk to the Cocoa Room and other areas of the factory that needed fresh milk every day. As a main ingredient in so many products, one could never be too careful. One day it would be up to Logan to determine if the milk was good enough.
His dad handed him a glass. Logan grasped it with both hands, took a small sip, and swished the milk around in his mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. "Bessie?" he asked.
The Candymaker shook his head. "Cora."
Logan frowned and plopped down into his chair. He had been so certain. Bessie's milk had a slightly nutty taste. Cora's was thicker and mint-flavored, which he chalked up to the fact that the field where the cows grazed bordered the peppermint plants. Was he losing his touch? Being able to distinguish between the milk of two different cows was a basic skill for a candymaker.
The Candymaker reached past his generous belly and ruffled his son's hair. "Just kidding. It was Bessie's."
Logan sighed in relief. His mother shook her head disapprovingly, but her husband just grinned. "Gotta keep the boy on his toes." He tossed a few slivers of dark chocolate into his milk and stirred briskly.
"Now, Logan," he said between sips, "be sure not to make the other kids feel insecure today. After all, you grew up here, and this is their first time visiting a candy factory."
"I'll be sure not to shout out the temperature at which sugar boils," Logan promised.
The Candymaker laughed. "I'm sure you won't."
"Here you go," Logan's mom said, handing him a folded piece of notebook paper. He tucked the paper into his back pocket without reading it. This tradition had started when he turned eight and his mother was trying to find some way to make him enjoy reading more. She had found a poem called "Keep a Poem in Your Pocket." Now each morning he got to carry a poem or a quote in his pocket. He almost always remembered to read it.
She also handed him a homemade breakfast bar—which was just her usual oatmeal compressed into bar form. "Eat this on your way downstairs," she instructed, pointing to a small video monitor on the counter. "Your fellow contestants are here."
Logan eagerly leaned forward for a better look. The screen showed the view outside the factory's front door. A blond girl in a yellow sundress caught his eye first. Her dress was so bright it rivaled a Neon Yellow Lightning Chew, one of the factory's biggest sellers.
Two boys stood beside her. He couldn't see their faces or hear their words, but from the looks of it, they were having a very heated debate. The girl planted her hands squarely on her hips and shook her head, her ponytail whipping around. The taller boy (in a blue suit! and a tie!) stamped his foot. Logan turned to peer at the smaller boy, more casually dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. He kept shifting his large backpack from shoulder to shoulder. It must be very heavy.
"You might not want to leave them out there much longer," Logan's mom said. "Looks like things are heating—"
Logan was halfway out the door before she finished her sentence. He practically inhaled the breakfast bar as he ran along the steel walkway that led from the apartment into the main section of the factory. Years of eating while on the move had trained him in the art of making sure he didn't choke.
He could run and chew and still determine every ingredient of what he was eating. In the case of the breakfast bar: beets, barley, oats, molasses, licorice root, pine nuts, cinnamon, and a dash of salt. His mom may have been a whiz at making meals out of random ingredients, but Logan was a whiz at taking them apart.
He could also tell, merely by sniffing from across the room, if a vat of chocolate needed one more teaspoon of cocoa butter. When he was younger, he could identify the color and variety of any kind of chocolate by feel alone. He had discovered this talent by blindfolding himself and sticking one clean finger into the warm mixture. After that the Candymaker had special plastic gloves made for Logan's four-year-old hands.
Even though he could no longer perform this trick, he still found ways to make himself valuable around the factory. He spent all his early years watching his grandfather's handmade machines turn out candy of all sizes, shapes, colors, and smells. Just by looking, he could tell if a batch of marshmallow needed one more egg white. If an Oozing Crunchorama came down the conveyor belt with one too few hazelnuts, he would toss in a nut before the chocolate shell hardened around it.
But every night, after he listed all the things he was grateful for (which took a solid twenty minutes) and when the comforting shapes around him became too dark to see, the fear crept in and whispered in his ear, You don't have what it takes to be a candymaker. To be a candymaker, you actually had to know how to make candy. He couldn't follow a recipe, couldn't do even the simplest multiplication in his head. He knew that if he went to a real school, he'd probably be left behind.
Fortunately, his parents didn't believe in traditional schooling and had always educated him themselves. His father taught him to be kind, generous, and hardworking; his mother, to read and write and tell right from wrong.
Biology and baking he learned at the elbow of the Candymaker's right-hand man, confectionary scientist Max Pinkus (the genius responsible for creating the famous Icy Mint Blob, among other best sellers). From Mrs. Gepheart, the factory's librarian, he learned storytelling and philosophy. Everything else he learned by playing on the great lawn behind the factory and helping with the animals and crops. Logan used to think all that knowledge was enough.
But now, only six years away from stepping into his role as official assistant candymaker, he feared otherwise. Sure, he was great at working with the candies they'd already created, but ask him to create his own nougat, for instance, and it would be a scorched mess in no time. He couldn't translate ounces into cups or keep sugar at a steady boil, although he'd tried for years. Heating sugar to exactly the right temperature was the very foundation of candymaking. A few degrees too high, and your gummy dinosaur would turn into a lollypop!
But if he were to somehow win this contest, as his father and grandfather had when they were his age, he would not only prove to the candymaking community that he had what it took to make great candy, he would prove it to his parents and to himself.
"Hey, are you winning the race?" Henry, the head of the Marshmallow Room and one of Logan's favorite people, called out as he ran by.
"I've got a good head start," Logan replied, inhaling the smell of fresh marshmallows roasting. For as long as he could remember, they had had the same exchange every time Logan ran past Henry's room—sometimes ten times a day. (He ran a lot.)
Greetings flew at him from all sides as he raced past the Taffy Room and the Nougat Room, his sneakers squeaking on the shiny linoleum floors. He waved in response, in too much of a hurry to chat.
His feet slowed as a thought struck him. The other kids would know a lot more about the world than he did. What if they didn't like him? What if he didn't fit in? He came to a full stop.
Luckily, he had stopped right outside the Candy Laboratory, where no one could focus on anything but candy. Logan loved to watch Max and the assistant candy scientists in action.
Today Max's team was testing how long it took for their tongues to return to normal temperature after sucking on Fireball Supernovas, their newest invention. Each one held a stopwatch and a clipboard. A few were red-faced. One was panting.
Logan glanced around the room. Max's bald head made the group easy to find. He stood beside one of the large steel kettles in the back, stirring the spicy cinnamon brew for the Supernovas with a long wooden spoon. Every few seconds he added a drop of red pepper oil. In the opposite corner of the lab, the recently harvested carrageen crop lay soaking in large metal pans.
Logan wrinkled his nose at the marshy smell of the reddish purple seaweed, which wafted all the way out to the hall. After being processed, carrageen produced the gel for all the Candymaker's gummy products, including Gummzilla and Gummysaurus Rex, which, at thirteen inches tall, were the world's largest commercially sold gummy dinosaurs. The gel was also used on products that required a sugar coating (like the High-Jumping Jelly Beans) or a chocolate coating (like the Oozing Crunchorama). Logan had spent many a messy afternoon coating caramel balls with carrageen before rolling them in chocolate.
He could watch the scientists all day, but he knew it would be rude to keep the other kids waiting any longer. So he turned away, breathing deeply. His lungs expanded with the fresh air that was constantly pumped into this section of the factory to keep the temperature in the ideal 70- to 72-degree candymaking range. Refreshed, he ran without stopping to the large front entryway.
He heard the bell ring a few times as he approached the thick wooden door. But when he reached it, his hand lingered on the brass doorknob. What would he say to the newcomers? Why hadn't he prepared a welcome speech like those he'd heard his dad give to new employees on their first day?
Well, he might not have a speech, but at least he had a poem. He reached into his pocket, took a deep breath, and swung open the door in time to hear the boy in the suit say, "And that's just the way it is." Then three faces turned expectantly toward his.
In that moment, all their fates were sealed. They just didn't know it yet.
It's about time," said the boy in the suit. The other boy pushed up his glasses, reddened, and smiled shyly. The girl grinned brightly and pulled her ponytail tighter.
Logan cleared his throat, held up the notepaper, and read, "'Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.'" Then he refolded the note (not as gracefully as he would have liked) and stuck it in his pocket. He knew he could rely on Mom to pick out the perfect quote for any occasion.
The girl clasped her hands together. "Lovely!" she exclaimed.
The shorter boy beamed.
The boy in the suit rolled his eyes, looked at his watch, and said, "We're losing daylight here. Let's get this show on the road." He picked up a large brown leather briefcase and strode past Logan into the factory.
"Hi, I'm Daisy Carpenter," the girl said, sticking out her hand.
Logan stared at it for a second before reaching out to shake it. He'd never shaken hands with someone his own age before. It made him feel very mature. He again found himself distracted by her yellow dress, which glowed even brighter up close. He couldn't help noticing that one of her socks was pink and the other blue with white spots. Maybe she was color-blind. He'd never met someone who was color-blind before. What if you thought you were choosing blue cotton candy but it turned out to be pink?
"I'm Logan," he replied, forcing his gaze away from her feet. "I'm, uh, the Candymaker's son."
"Nice to meet you," she said, then tilted her head toward the boy in the suit, who was already a few feet inside. "That charmer is Philip."
The short boy with the big backpack stepped up next to Daisy. "I'm Miles." He didn't extend his hand, though, so Logan gave a little wave and said hello.
Miles flashed a smile and seemed about to say more. Instead, he just shuffled his feet. Logan was glad to see that someone else felt as shy as he did. He stepped aside to let them enter. The square white pocketbook slung over Daisy's right shoulder hit him on the arm as she passed. He rubbed his arm quickly so she wouldn't notice. What could be in there, bricks? He was about to ask, when he remembered that his mother had taught him never to ask what was inside a lady's purse.
"Wow!" Miles exclaimed as he crossed the threshold. "This place is amazing!"
"Utterly!" Daisy added in an awed tone.
Logan closed the door and smiled. He always liked watching people's faces when they first entered the factory. Philip had turned toward the window of the Cocoa Room, so Logan couldn't see his face. But Miles and Daisy were wearing similar expressions: eyes wide and shining, jaws slightly open, heads bobbing around to soak it all in. The glass ceiling overhead threw sunlight onto the white floors and bounced it off the silver fixtures, making everything shimmer and glow as though lit from within. The bronze statue of his grandfather loomed over the entryway, his kind and welcoming smile the first thing guests saw when they entered.
Logan watched Miles and Daisy slowly turn in a circle, taking in the chocolate fountain, with its continuous stream of smooth chocolate, the barrels of taffy in every color of the rainbow, the gleaming machines behind the long windows of the Cocoa Room.
"Look!" Miles said, pointing to a large display case. "It's a giant Gummysaurus Rex! That's my favorite candy!"
"That one was the prototype," Logan explained. "The first of its kind, I mean. If you look closely, you can see where the tail broke off in the mold. We had to keep adding more acacia-tree gum until we got it right."
"So cool," Miles said, leaning forward eagerly to get a better look at the broken tail.
"And look at this!" Daisy exclaimed, running up to a gold plaque on the wall. She read off the words that Logan could recite in his sleep: "The Confectionary Association is proud to bestow the honor of Best New Candy to Samuel Sweet, for his invention of the Pepsicle." Then she hurried over to the next one.
Logan felt his stomach twist but managed to keep a pleasant smile on his face as she read the plaque. "The Confectionary Association is proud to bestow the honor of Best New Candy to Richard Sweet, for his invention of the Neon Yellow Lightning Chew." She turned to Logan, a look of admiration on her face. "That's your grandpa and your dad, right?"
Logan nodded, his stomach twisting again.
"Must be a lot of pressure on you, huh?" Philip asked, joining them. He tapped the empty space next to the Candymaker's plaque. "I bet your parents expect to see your name right here. Too bad you have to be up against me. I don't lose."
Logan took a step backward. He wasn't used to having anyone talk to him this way. The need for him to win was his own, not his parents'. "No, it's… it's not like that," he insisted. "They only wanted me to enter if it's what I wanted. They don't care if I win."
But Philip wasn't listening. He was reading the first plaque again. "The Pepsicle? Your grandfather won the candy world's biggest honor for a peppermint ice pop? "
"Things were, um, different back then," Logan stammered, still feeling off balance from the boy's mocking tone. "I mean, people were just starting to have freezers in their houses. Creating the first frozen candy was a big deal."
"Boy," Philip muttered. "Competition must have been slim pickings that year."
"I happen to love Pepsicles," Daisy said, turning her back on Philip. "So does my best friend, Magpie, and she's very particular."
Logan threw her a grateful smile.
"What kind of girl is named Magpie?" asked Philip.
"What kind of boy is named Philip?" replied Daisy.
"Sooo…," Miles said, turning toward Logan. "Is Sweet really your last name?"
Logan nodded, hoping he wasn't going to get teased about that, too.
Miles grinned, and his glasses rode up a bit on his nose. "I guess with a name like that it's no wonder your grandfather opened a candy factory!"
- On Sale
- Oct 3, 2011
- Page Count
- 480 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers