cover image The Matchstick Castle

The Matchstick Castle

Keir Graff. Putnam, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-101-99622-5

Brian Brown is enduring “the worst summer ever” before sixth grade after his father sends him from Boston to the town of Boring, Ill., where he’s forced to help test-drive his Uncle Gary’s summer-school software program. Then Brian and his (initially frosty) cousin Nora discover the nearby Matchstick Castle, a haphazard seven-story wooden house (complete with “a big wooden boat” on top), inhabited by Cosmo van Dash and his family of eccentric adventurers. As the madcap plot progresses, Brian and Nora trap giant Amazonian wasps, rescue Cosmo’s uncle from being trapped on the seventh floor, and defend the castle from a bureaucrat intent on demolishing it. Brian is an observant, funny, and relatable protagonist, and the van Dashes are very much in the tradition of large, offbeat families from classic children’s literature. Graff (The Other Felix) fashions another fascinating character in the Matchstick Castle itself through detailed descriptions of its peculiar layout and secrets. Given the van Dash family’s knack for adventure, one can only hope Graff has plans for more “Boring” stories. Ages 8–12. Agent: Josh Getzler, Hannigan Salky Getzler. (Jan.)