Book Title:
The Matchstick Castle
Book Author:
Keir Graff
Publishing Date:
January 10th, 2017
G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Date Read:
January 12th, 2017
ARC from publisher - Thank you!


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.

My Review

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 a difficult time connecting to the book’s characters.

“It was going to be epic: the all-time, best summer ever.
Instead, I ended up in Boring, Illinois.
No, I’m not kidding.  There’s a town called Boring.  And it is.”

While there might be a town called Boring in the book, The Matchstick Castle was anything but boring.  There was something neat going on in every chapter throughout the entire book, keeping you engrossed in the story and eager to find out what happens next.

Brian’s father is going to spend the summer in the South Pole, where he is being sent to make nifty scientific discoveries.  Brian is all for it – after all, his dad is really involved in his job and loves what he does, plus Brian figures he will be able to stay with a friend or someone close and have the chance to have a fantastic and adventure filled summer.  But when Brian’s father drops the bombshell that Brian will be staying with his Uncle Gary in a town called Boring, Illinois, Brian is devastated.  He doesn’t really know his aunt and uncle that well, and the last time that he spent with his cousin Nora didn’t go very well, so he isn’t sure what his summer is going to entail.

Turns out, his uncle Gary has created a software program called “Summer’s Cool,” in which Brian and Nora will spend their summer vacation waking up early and spending their day similarly to a regular school day, only in front of their computers learning.  Talk about boring.

So when Brian goes into the woods and has an interesting encounter with a wild boar, the first thing his cousin and uncle tell him is never to go into the woods.  The woods, they say, are off limits.

When Nora and Brian have a fight one day, they run into the woods anyway, and discover a huge house, with mixed up construction and a weird design, as well as a boat on the roof.  Yes.  A boat.  Seven stories up.

When they knock, no one answers, so they make their way inside, only to be met by a young boy who is their age.  This boy, Cosmo, is thrilled to see them, and immediately enlists their help to remove a bunch of huge, exotic wasps from the house.

When Brian and Nora help Cosmo with the task, and meet some other members of Cosmo’s family, they realize that they enjoy being around them, and find ways to go back into the woods, despite their uncle grounding them.

However, when Brian opens a piece of a mail that he accidentally picks up from Cosmo’s house, he learns that the town plans to demolish the Matchstick Castle, and so he tries to help the best that he can, including sneaking out in the middle of the night so that his uncle and aunt do not notice that he and Nora have left.

The Matchstick Castle is full of ridiculous banter, funny jokes, and is a perfect summer read for middle graders (or anyone, really). 

For some reason, even though this book made me laugh and I liked the story, I found myself having a hard time connecting to any of the characters within.  They weren’t poorly written, and they had substance instead of just being flat, but some of the members of Cosmo’s family – his uncles, for example – just kind of all blended together to me, and I couldn’t tell them apart.  This wasn’t a problem, as the author always provided reference as to whom was speaking, but I guess I just wish that their personalities were a bit different from one another.

Also, Uncle Gary and Aunt Jenny were just annoying, and I kind of thought they were boring.  Also, they were just oblivious and kind of downright mean sometimes. 

Aside from having a difficult time caring about many of the characters in this book, I did really enjoy my time spent within the Matchstick Castle.  It was really interesting (and quite amazing) to see how the author put so many things together to create this amazing, fantastical house.

The Matchstick Castle is a lot different than a lot of other middle grade novels that I have read lately, as most of them have been highly emotional or dealing with social and family issues, while this book was more on the lighter side of things.  So if you’re looking for a quick pick me up after reading a few heavier titles, I can see this working out well for you!


3.5 stars
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2 Responses to The Matchstick Castle by Keir Graff

  1. I like the premise of this book. I wish it would have stood out a bit more to you, though. It sounds like some of the characters weren’t much fun.
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    • Kelly says:

      They weren’t as fun as I had hoped them to be, unfortunately. They definitely had some interesting personalities, but they also kind of meshed together instead of having any of the characters actually stand out. Still, it was a quick, cute read that is perfect for a light pick me up!

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