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The Matchstick Castle

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  387 ratings  ·  95 reviews
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 hu
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 10th 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
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Esther Van no, it does not lag, every page is filled with exciting things happening that make the book even better.

Community Reviews

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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  387 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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Oct 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yep, I'm going to say it: this is my favourite middle-grade audiobook this year. So much fun! I love books with weird or changing houses, and this one definitely fits the bill. If I would've read this as a kid I would have saved up my money to buy it. And even back then I was a tightwad frugal.

My 16 year old son's rating: 4 stars (he's never given 5 stars)
My 11 year old son's rating: 5 stars
My 5 year old son's rating: 5 billion out of 5 billion

Ms. Yingling
Dec 17, 2016 rated it liked it
29996858Graff, Keir. The Matchstick Castle
January 10th 2017 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

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 Bri
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a magical book! From start to finish, this unique adventure had the kids (8 and 10) and I enthralled. We loved the quirky cast of characters, especially in the context of Boring, IL and its unimaginative citizens. There was plenty at stake for both Brian and the van Dash family throughout the story, which kept us engaged and guessing, and we got so much satisfaction out of the outcome. The kids were biting their nails by the last few chapters, and literally cheered when they heard the endin ...more
Nov 22, 2016 rated it it was ok
It was okay, though lacking in originality. Normally, this would have rated it three stars, but, at the beginning of the book, Brian's dad goes off to the summer. Flights to Antarctica in summer are exceedingly rare, undertaken only for emergencies and flying out someone who has broken a hand and the opposite arm. Most flights that far south are only done during the months of October through March because that's when the can be. Basically, that one small factual mis-step, which c ...more
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I think that children in 3rd-5th grade would find this book very exciting and funny. I did! This book falls into the realistic fiction category but some of the characters' viewpoints and actions were over the top (in a good way).
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kelly Gunderman
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
Check out this and other reviews on my young adult book blog, Here's to Happy Endings!

*Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars*

The Matchstick Castle is a middle grade adventure that reminded me a bit of Alice in Wonderland because of the ridiculous things that were going on in it (more on that later), and while I really thought the theme would make me fall in love with the book, I had a few problems really getting into it. While The Matchstick Castle was definitely a fun middle grade read, I did have a bit of
Mar 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 5thgrade
Not my favorite - the plot was all in service of the concept of this cool house. Would have been a better short story, where things like no motive or reason for Uncle Gary to be such a miserable sod can go without explanation.
Jul 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
So many crazy adventures! Kids will enjoy the story.
Amanda Blau
Mar 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Listened to audiobook - satisfying family listen.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley, ya-kid-lit
What's the worst fate that can befall you as you get ready to enter middle school? Find out that you will be spending the summer with your uncle and his family in the town of Boring, Illinois. And it lives up the name. Poor Brian is sent to stay with his Uncle Gary, Aunt Jenny, and his cousin Nora while his father is off to Antarctica. It's bad enough that he will be away from home, his brothers, his friends, and the soccer tournament he was training for, but Uncle Gary designs educational softw ...more
Jan 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure - Keir is my editor at Booklist.

Matchstick Castle is a fun romp with a wonderful classic feel to it. Brian's voice is terrific and I think will really appeal to kids. The eccentric Van Dash family was a delight as was the ramshackle castle full of surprises set against suburban Boring Illinois. There are lots of fun details and touches that make this a completely engaging read. Uncle Gary and his "Summer's Cool" online summer school made a wonderful foil for beckoning forbidden
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
Ya done good, my friend.

If you let Pippi Longstocking drive Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Daniel Pinkwater's house to meet with like-minded Anti-Bureaucrats on the injustice of static education you might just get "a wonderful book about three daring young people who rescue grown-ups from frightening situations."

Recommended as a family read-aloud. Perfect for the reader who has graduated from Mrs. Piggle Wiggle and is headed toward The Mysterious Benedict Society.

Quote from page 162 of the ARC.

Jennifer Bertman
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: middle-grade
A whimsical adventure with a large dose of humor? Yes, please! This story spoke to my inner child, who suffered too many boring summer vacations and longed to discover something magical and exciting in my own backyard.
Jan 19, 2017 rated it liked it
Kinda fun.
Becky B
Brian is thinking he just might be in danger of dying of boredom in Boring, Illinois this summer. His dad finally got cleared to go to Antarctica to use the telescope, so Brian finds all his summer plans ruined. He's now stuck with his boring Aunt & Uncle and cousin Nora in Boring, Illinois. His Uncle is making Brian and Nora test his School's Fun summer school online program. There's no one to play soccer with, and Nora's idea of fun during free time is to write in her notebook. Things star ...more
Lois Boerman
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-grade
It’s the summer before 6th grade and Brian is forced to spend it in Boring, Illinois. His father has gone to the South Pole to do research, so Brian gets to live with his Uncle Gary, Aunt Jenny and cousin Nora. Being apart from his father is bad enough, but things get worse when Brian realizes that his uncle expects him to spend his summer going to school online.

In an attempt to get away from the stifling environment inside his uncle’s house, Brian heads into the woods one day and discovers Cos
Nicole Smith
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I went to the library in search of another book, and when it was not available, I stumbled across this one. I'm delighted that I picked it up!

I took it with me on a trip to visit my nieces (4 and 2) and they loved listening to me read it in the car while we were headed to and from places. They even asked if I would "read the story with no pictures" while we were at home.

- Nora looked at the book the way a lot of grown-ups look at their phones: as if they're hypnotized and helpless to resi
The Library Lady
Are well known kids authors, the sort who write blurbs for other people's books, unaware of any books published when THEY were kids, or even before that?

This book is mildly entertaining, but easily interchangeable with a zillion other such. Boy/Girl goes reluctantly to visit family members and is having a miserable time, boy/girl finds wacky secret place to have adventures, boy triumphs, and perhaps makes friends with a cousin whom is more likeable than he/she thought. The end.

It's been
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Fun, quick read with curious (though somewhat shallow) characters. Really, the house itself is the most interesting "character," but it's well capable of sustaining the story. There are several hints that it has some agency, protecting itself and its own from threats. It's a lot of fun to read the passages where people dart from one place to another through the house encountering various absurd locations along the way. It would be interesting to expand on this point - if the origins were left in ...more
Karen Maurer
3.5 stars actually and maybe major beef is the stodgy boring-ness of Brian's Uncle and Aunt. They were so awfully boring and inflexible. Then, I met the neighbors and, perhaps - probably, the stodginess is necessary to play off the neighbors' personalities.

Adventurers, unite! The neighbors will lose their home and their property if Brian and his boring cousin, Nora, don't do something. The neighbors, firmly entrenched in the technology of the first two-thirds of the 20th century, are inep
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book borders on Nonsense Fantasy, which as a whole I really don't like. But somehow, this author makes it work. I think it's the sense of humor in our main character Brian that kept my interest. He is a kid with a huge sense of adventure who finds himself shipped off to spend a summer with his super strict uncle in Boring, Illinois. Of course he's forbidden to enter the mysterious woods surrounding the suburb, and of course he does, where naturally he finds the strangest family of once-famo ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
*I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher*

I found this to be a very fun adventure book. A bit of wish fulfillment, a bit of mayhem, and a manic pixie boy to boot.

Brian is forced to live with his aunt and uncle, and sourpuss cousin, for the summer while his dad travels. It's looking to be a very boring summer until he sneaks into the woods and finds a tumbledown house that is home to an eccentric family. He and his cousin get pulled into an adventure to save the house from a
Donna Dobihal Smith
Take off your adult hat, if you are an adult reading this, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy this engaging, fun romp full of quirky characters, annoying and endearing adults - and kids - and an unbelievably cool setting young readers will wish they could visit. Not all books are meant to be deep and though this is lighthearted, it still has a lot to offer those who want to discuss such issues as parenting styles, friendship, unusual summer vacations, lost treasure, a family that owns a submarine ...more
Goshen PL Childrens
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Bryan had a great summer planned - soccer and sleeping in. Then, his dad got a once in a lifetime opportunity and Bryan was shipped off to spend the summer with his aunt, uncle, and cousin in Boring, Illinois, (one of the few places that actually lives up to it’s name) beta testing his uncle’s Summer’s Cool learning software. It’s looking like the worst summer ever, But that is before he gets lost in the forbidden woods and meets the eccentric van Dash family.
The Matchstick Castle is an over the
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a humorous read full of adventure and quirky characters. Brian gets sent to live with his aunt, uncle and cousin in the town of Boring. His uncle forces him to do a ‘Summer’s Cool’ online program. Just when he thinks his summer can’t get any worse, he finds a house, or Matchstick Castle, and inside is a new friend and lots of crazy elements about the house and the family that lives there. While there is not any magic in it, the story is full of it. No swears, violence or romantic situat ...more
Christine Crawford
My kids (8 and 9) really enjoyed this. It had adventure and excitement and quirkiness and a kid who likes soccer. It has both a boy and girl protagonist, so I think it would be enjoyed by a lot of kids. I didn't love it as much as my kids did. The characters get into a lot of trouble, which I'm okay with to a certain extent. However, I found myself annoyed by how much of what they did was dangerous and illegal (breaking and entering, destroying expensive public property and endangering lives) an ...more
May 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: juvenile-fiction
Meh--not super original and completely over the top, but the 3 kids in my life who were around while it was playing in the kitchen all got a good laugh or two out of it so 3 stars it is!

What I really didn't like was that the two kids were sneaking off to a house in the woods that they were expressly forbidden to go into by the parents. Hey kids--ignoring your parents and going into a dilapidated old house full of random, weird, (and very eccentric) older men is not a super great idea. I'm talki
Heather Johnson
Aug 08, 2018 rated it liked it

This was an incredible read aloud pick from the Illinois Reading Council Illinois Reads 2018 selection committee ( I cannot wait to share this with the Lincoln and Washington teachers. This is a fantastic story of what can happen when you allow yourself to experience adventure. Students of any gender will appreciate and identify with either Brian, Nora, or Cosmo, and they will be eager to see whether or not these three can truly save the Matchstick
Jennifer Heise
Who wouldn't rather spend their summer with Cosmo's eccentric family in their dangerously unusual house, rather than in Boring, Illinois, with their boring aunt and their more-than-boring uncle's "Summer's Cool" summer schooling program? I certainly would-- as long as I had a choice to sleep elsewhere, with a slightly firmer floor.
In the grand tradition of Pippi Longstocking and other eccentric storylines, the children experience oddball stories that turn out to be true and perform death-defying
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Keir Graff is the author of One Nation, Under God, My Fellow Americans, and, writing as Michael McCulloch, Cold Lessons. His short stories have appeared in a wide variety of publications. He lives in Chicago."