With his father in Antarctica and his brothers enjoying adventurous summers elsewhere, Brian endures his in aptly named Boring, Illinois, beta testing Uncle Gary’s educational software (Summer’s Cool) alongside his unfriendly cousin, Nora, until a discovery in the woods changes everything.
Uncle Gary’s risk-averse parenting is a far cry from the comfortably laissez-faire style Brian’s used to, and unlike the town, Summer’s Cool doesn’t live up to its billing. A tussle with Nora ends in a chase into the woods. Lost, they stumble upon the peculiar Matchstick Castle, crowned by a boat on the roof. They’re warmly welcomed by a boy, Cosmo van Dash, who needs help tackling giant wasps currently infesting the premises. With Cosmo’s aviatrix mother last heard from in Borneo, his father and uncles run an all-male household. The impulsive, impractical, high-spirited, and resilient van Dashes—and their castle—are far from boring. Offering badly needed problem-solving skills, Brian and Nora help control the wasps and locate Uncle Kingsley, lost inside the castle. Discovering that the Boring City Hall intends to demolish the castle within days, the van Dashes are defiant—while Brian and Nora counsel a practical approach, the van Dashes favor breaking into City Hall. Enjoyable mayhem ensues. Graff neatly contains his wacky plot within narrator Brian’s Everykid voice, unspooling the looniness with transparent glee.
Fast-paced, anarchic fun for reluctant and avid readers alike. (Fiction. 8-12)