The Matchstick Castle

The Matchstick Castle
Age Range
Release Date
January 10, 2017
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Brian can think of a few places he'd rather spend his summer than with his aunt and uncle in Boring, Illinois. Jail, for example. Or an earplug factory. Anything would be better than doing summer school on a computer while his scientist dad is stationed at the South Pole.

Boring lives up to its name until Brian and his cousin Nora have a fight, get lost, and discover a huge, wooden house in the forest. With balconies, turrets, and windows seemingly stuck on at random, it looks ready to fall over in the next stiff breeze. To the madcap, eccentric family that lives inside, it’s not just a home—it’s a castle.

Suddenly, summer gets a lot more exciting. With their new friends, Brian and Nora tangle with giant wasps, sharp-tusked wild boars, and a crazed bureaucrat intent on bringing the dangerously dilapidated old house down with a wrecking ball.

This funny, fantastical story will resonate with any reader who’s ever wished a little adventure would find them.

Editor review

1 review
An exciting summer vacation
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Brian's father has an opportunity to work with a telescope at the South Pole, adn since his mother is dead, he ends up being shipped off to his Uncle Gary's in Boring, Illinois for the summer. THere, along with his cousin Nora, he is expected to Beta test his uncle's new educational software, Summer's Cool! This is even more boring than the town, but when Brian and Nora get a chance to investigate the woods behind the house (where they have been told NOT to go, of course), and find an enormous, dilapidated house. Inhabited by the van Dash family, including young Cosmo, the house has structural problems but is fascinating. It is also in danger of being torn down by the city, although the van Dash family has a bigger problem-- one of Cosmo's uncles is missing, probably trapped within the house itself. There are also crazed wild boars, giant killer wasps, and all manner of events that are far more intriguing than studying lessons on a computer. Brian and Nora get drawn in to the family's story and work with the uncle's to find a way to sabotage the city's demolition attempt and save the house.
Good Points
This was an interesting fantasy adventure that was reminiscent of classics like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as Snyder's Any Which Wall. Summer has become boring for many children, so reading books about children who get to have adventures might be the most exciting thing that happens!

Any book that involves magical houses is one that I enjoy, and while this was a little light on magic, it was certainly an imposing edifice full of danger. As an adult, I was rather concerned about Brian's safety when he tried to get between upper floors of the house that were falling to bits, but young readers will find this to be an enthralling adventure full of pulse-pounding circumstances.

The cover is a great one-- I wish that the interior of the book had a few pictures as well, but the prose descriptions paint a vivid portrait. This would make a fun movie, as the set would be as much a character as Brian or Nora. Hand this one to readers who like quirky adventure with odd and unusual characters.
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