The Matchstick Castle

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Jan 2017

Member Reviews

Extremely popular middle grade title, that is easy to book talk, still, years later.
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My request was approved very close to the archive date, so I was unable to download the ARC. My review is based on a print copy of the book I received.

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 local bureaucrat. Yes, you will have to suspend disbelief to a great extent, but if you're just looking for a fun book, it's a good choice.
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I have had many requests for books like Escape from Mr Lemoncellos library. This has been just as popular if not more. Such a fun read.
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Brian's summer is extremely boring until he and his cousin discover a very unusual house in the woods they have been forbidden to enter. Brian finds himself in the middle of an adventure that is anything but boring. With its quirky characters and eccentric plot this was a fun read. It was also interesting to imagine the house with its very unique architecture. Readers who enjoy adventure and imaginative and whimsical stories will like this book.
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This is a fun and funny mystery/adventure book about a boy who goes to spend the summer with his aunt, uncle, and cousin far from his family home.  Brian is less than thrilled with this idea and gets even less thrilled when his uncle expects him to beta test the software he is designing.  I thought the adults were really one dimensional.  Would any real adult make a kid spend his entire summer playing a school based video game?   Some of the characters are named after famous authors (which would probably escape most of the kids that this book was aimed at) and the plot resolution was fairly predictable.  The writing over all was fairly simplistic.  It was ok but not really great.
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What could be worse than having to spend your summer in a town called Boring, Illinois? Although on the surface, Boring lives up to it's name, until Brian and his cousin Nora discover a odd wooden building in the woods, and the unusual family living there. Great adventure!
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Brian is on track to having the worst summer EVER. His widowed dad has the chance of a lifetime, doing research at the South Pole. His brother is staying with a friend while his dad's away. Brian's being shipped off to Boring, Illinois, to stay with his Uncle Gary, Aunt Jenny, and know-it-all cousin, Nora. To add insult to injury, Uncle Gary's developed a summer school computer program, Summer's Cool, and is making Brian and Nora keep actual school hours to prevent the dreaded "summer slide". Just when Brian wants to tear his hair out from boredom, he and Nora discover a house in the woods beyond Uncle Gary's property. Cosmo van Dash, the boy who lives there, calls the house The Matchstick Castle, and he lives there with his eccentric family - explorers, writers, thinkers, dreamers - and invites Brian and Nora on adventures where they'll explore the house to recover a lost uncle, run from wild boars and trap giant Amazon bees. A fanatically boring bureaucrat wants to tear the Matchstick Castle to put up another - well, boring - housing development, but Brian, Nora, and the van Dash family will fight to secure their castle.

This story is way too much fun. Told in the first person from Brian's point of view, we get a narrator who is having the worst summer ever. He's a sympathetic character: we get only enough information about his family to know that his mother has died, his father is a very permissive parent, and he's put into a situation that threatens to squash all the fun and creativity out of his life in favor of being safe and predictable. Boring, just like the Illinois town where he's enduring the summer. The Matchstick Castle and the family that lives there helps bring color and life back to Brian's world and, in doing so, brings him closer to his cousin, Nora, while also giving Nora permission to let loose and have fun. Tweens will love the van Dashes. It's a good opportunity to share fun and crazy family stories as a writing or collage exercise, too. I hope this one shows up on summer reading lists; it's a perfect summertime read.
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Due to family circumstances, Brian needs to spend the summer with his aunt, uncle and cousin in the small town of Boring.  To start off with, boring is exactly what Brian expects his summer to be.  His cousin seems to be the biggest nerd and his uncle makes them both do 'summer schooling' using a computer package he's designed.  After a fight with his cousin, things take a turn for the better when they both meet Cosmo first and then his eccentric family.  From this point, things become infinitely more interesting and the adventures begin - starting with the boars and the giant wasps!
Cosmo sounds like a great friend to have, his family made me laugh and his 'castle' is a place where you never know what to expect next. There were perhaps a couple of American terms/turns of phrase that might need explaining,
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Brian is devastated when he learns he has to spend the summer with his boring aunt, uncle and cousin Nora in a town actually named Boring. Nora is also upset to have to spend her days with someone constantly breaking the rules and questioning having to do school work during their summer vacation.

When Brian gets lost in the woods, he discovers a young boy named Cosmo and his very eccentric family who live in a house that resembles a matchstick castle. Soon after Brian is caught up in Cosmo's adventures. He drags Nora along and the two of them work to save matchstick castle from being demolished.

This was a fun, easy read with a certain nostalgic feel to it. It gives the message that stepping away from a computer and discovering what you can make with your own two hands is just as important, if not more so. Good read for young middle school age.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for a review.
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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. 

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. 

I don't know that I will buy this one. It had a really good premise, but somehow fell short.
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