From School Library Journal
Gr 4-8–Children running amok in a candy factory, immortalized by Roald Dahl, is one story line that bears repeating. At the Life Is Sweet factory, four 12-year-olds gather to create new goodies for the annual Confectionery Association Conference. Logan, the Candymaker's son, dreams of winning his family's respect. Miles's parents hope the experience will help him forget a tragic accident he couldn't prevent. Daisy is fascinated by the factory, but for what reason? And Philip scribbles in his secret notebook, determined to win at all costs. When the factory's secret ingredient is stolen, the children find a common purpose: to foil the plot by creating the best candy ever. The tidy conclusion has a few contrivances, but none that will bother children. Mass has crafted a solid mystery dipped in sweet candy-making details. Character development moves a lengthy story forward in smooth increments. As each child's story emerges, the mystery becomes one bit clearer, making this a real page-turner. The characters are intricate, flawed heroes with whom readers will identify. The book's subtle message of teamwork over greed and growth through friendship will resonate with readers and educators alike. A magical setting filled with conveyor belts, chocolate jungles, and beehives makes it clear what the youngsters are attempting to save. Give this mouthwatering confection to children who like Trenton Stewart's The Mysterious Benedict Society (Little, Brown, 2007) and other quirky mysteries.–Caitlin Augusta, Stratford Library Association, CTα(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
It starts with unmistakable echoes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) and eventually features a musical candy a la Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s “Toot Sweets,” but Mass’ latest novel ends up being a treat all its own. Four 12-year-olds gather at a candy factory to participate in the local segment of a nationwide contest to create a new and delectable piece of candy. One contestant is the only child of the factory’s owner, known here as the Candymaker. Another boy is obsessed with allergies and the afterlife, while the third boy is unfriendly and intent on winning. The lone girl, Daisy, seems to be sweetness itself but displays great physical strength as well as odd behavior. Mass skillfully presents the two and a half days of the kids’ apprenticeship from the perspective of each of the four contestants. At over four hundred pages, this is not a lightning-fast read, but it reveals a multitude of mysteries, explaining all the clues about misunderstandings, spies, and sabotage that Mass has dropped along the way. Attentive, candy-loving readers will be richly rewarded. Grades 4-6. --Abby Nolan