The Candymakers and the Great Chocolate Chase Read online

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  For all the readers of The Candymakers who told me what they wanted to see in this book, I hope you’re pleased.

  May your lives always be sweet. (See what I did there? )

  P.S. Read with candy!

  “You will travel in a land of marvels.”

  —Jules Verne, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea


  You! With the dirty knees and the leaf in your hair. You with the sticky fingers and the smudge of chocolate on your chin. And you with the flashlight under your covers after Mom said lights out. And, yes, YOU with this book in your hand, trying to decide whether you’re going to read it. You don’t know me very well—not yet, anyway. But a lot of people went out of their way for me, so I figured I’d pay it forward and look out for you. I’m not gonna lie—this is a long book, and there are things you should know if you’re going to spend your precious time turning the pages. After all, what is more valuable than your time? As a man much wiser than I once said, “Time is the coin of your life. Don’t let anyone else spend it for you.”

  If you do read this book, here’s what’s in store for you: Hidden treasures. Secret worlds. A decades—old mystery. The open road. A River of Light. A Map of Awe. A sky of many colors. Gadgets and gizmos. New friends and old relatives. Love. Fear. Bravery. Hope. One very small cat who thinks she’s a dog.

  And candy. Lots and lots of mouthwatering candy. Soft and chewy, hard and crunchy, sour and sweet. Some of it plays music. There’s also the small matter of a comet hurtling toward Earth at a hundred thousand miles an hour, but try not to worry about that. It happens a lot.

  If any of this stuff doesn’t interest you, feel free to close the book now. No hard feelings. I won’t take it personally. I should mention, though, that if you don’t stick around, you’ll miss seeing how one of the world’s best magicians utterly blurs the edges of reality, and that’s not something you soon forget. Trust me, I’ve seen it.

  I’d better go now. I need to sleep. Got a big day tomorrow. So do Logan, Miles, Philip, and Daisy. Only to them it’s just an ordinary Tuesday. Life is like that, ya know? It’s never the things you worry about that get you.





  After spending exactly twelve years and five months living inside a candy factory, Logan Sweet knew all the best places to hide. That’s not to say he hid often. In fact, all the folks responsible for creating, packaging, selling, and shipping the dozen different types of candy produced at the Life Is Sweet candy factory considered Logan to be a visible, helpful (some would add indispensable), and always cheerful presence on the factory floor. But from time to time, he found the need to be alone. Usually these times coincided with the final due date of a homework assignment. Since all his teachers worked at the factory (and in the case of his parents, lived in the same apartment), he had to be creative if he wanted to ditch them.

  Logan found his first hiding spot at age seven and a half, while trying to avoid finishing an assignment on the Amazon rain forest. In between Max’s duties as head candy scientist, he was teaching Logan about the effects of water saturation and drought on various types of cocoa beans.

  Logan didn’t mind having to make a diorama. All he had to do was visit the factory’s Tropical Room, which was as close to a real rain forest as one could get without visiting the equator. He took an old shoe box, shoveled some dirt into it from around his favorite sapodilla tree, taped some fallen leaves to two Pepsicle sticks, strung a green shoelace from stick to stick to make a vine, dangled a brown plastic monkey from the vine, and called it a day.

  But he really, really didn’t want to do the second half of the assignment—going to the factory’s library to find books and write down facts. Particularly in his younger years, Logan was more of a hands-on, in-the-moment type of person, the kind of boy who looked closely at things and tried to figure them out on his own. When he couldn’t, he enjoyed the not-knowing just as much as finding a solution. He would rather wonder how an ecosystem such as the rain forest gave life to so many different types of flora and fauna than find out an answer that might not be as exciting as he’d hoped.

  So he decided he simply wasn’t going to do it. Having no interest in actually telling Max that news, he figured his only option was to hide. But he couldn’t just wander into the factory and pick some random storage room. Preparations had to be made. He carefully gathered his supplies and then parked himself in one of the oversized chairs in the library and pretended to do his reading. He waited as patiently as possible (which is to say, not patiently at all) while, one by one, the workers shut down the factory’s candy machines for the night. This process was a lot more complicated than merely turning off some switches. The oil that made the machines run smoothly had to be drained and disposed of properly. All the pipes, tubes, trays, bins, compressors, oscillators, tumblers, conveyor belts, ovens, stovetops, kettles, vats, pots, pans, funnels, and barrels had to be scrubbed and stored until the machines would start back up again twelve hours later. Logan nearly fell asleep in the chair!

  When the coast was finally clear, he grabbed his stash from behind the chair and slung the duffel bags over both shoulders. He hurried down the quiet hall toward the room with the perfect Logan-sized hiding spot. With one last glance to make sure he hadn’t been followed, he ducked inside the Icy Mint Blob Room and wedged a pile of pillows behind the stack of old peppermint-oil barrels. He stocked his new space with comic books, drawing pads, and snacks of both the candy and the healthy variety. He made it back up to the apartment just in time for his mom’s famous Veggie Loaf Surprise dinner. (It should be noted that his mom’s substitution of chocolate chips for peas hadn’t been a surprise for many years.)

  Even though he ultimately had to finish the report, Logan wound up spending many lazy midday hours tucked away in that hiding spot, lulled into an almost dreamlike state by the thumping of the nearby panning machine. The panner—which looked to him like a space-age washing machine—spun the Icy Mint Blobs and coated them with blueberry syrup until they sparkled with a sugary glaze. It also muffled the sound of Logan crunching/slurping/chomping the latest candies that had been deemed NQP (not quite perfect) by Randall, the head of the quality-control team. As much as Logan loved all the candy Life Is Sweet produced, he particularly loved the pieces that came out too oddly shaped to fit in the packaging, or that were stuck together, or that came off the conveyor belt too sticky or too hard or the wrong shade of brown/red/orange/yellow/neon green. He possessed an uncanny ability to show up exactly when a new NQP batch appeared on the counter of the employee lounge.

  By the time Logan was nine, his legs had grown so long that his feet stuck out from behind the peppermint barrels. Rather than risk being discovered, he found a new hiding spot in the barn’s hayloft. This one worked out even better because the open windows let in a lot of fresh air (which also helped offset the smell of the cows below) and allowed him to play Name That Cloud without lying outside in the open. In one direction, he could gaze at t