by Michael Leali (Author)

Reading Level: 4th − 5th Grade

"This enchanting, modern homage to Pinocchio reminds us anything is possible if we're true to ourselves." --Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author of Ancestor Approved and Sisters of the Neversea

Eleven-year-old Matteo has never felt like one of the other boys. He's sure that will change when he joins the Blue Whales, the baseball team his dad once played for. This is his chance to grow into a son his father can be proud of.

And grow Matteo does, but not the way he expected. Instead, he starts sprouting leaves and finding bark all over his skin. Alarmed, Matteo starts digging for the truth about what's happening to him--and finds that all clues lead back to the oak tree at the center of town, which Creeksiders have always believed is a little bit magic. As his parents start noticing something is wrong, the truth gets harder to hide--and Matteo makes some surprising discoveries about himself, his hometown, and his entire family tree.

From Michael Leali, author of The Civil War of Amos Abernathy, this earnest deconstruction of what it means to be a "real boy" is full of humor and heart, and a surefire home run for readers of Mark Oshiro, Anne Ursu, and Katherine Applegate.

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Kirkus Reviews

Young readers will find it easy to empathize with bright, passionate, insecure Matteo. Tear-jerking and heartwarming in equal measure.


Starred Review
A wonderfully cinematic, compulsively readable, highly imaginative, plot-rich story with characters who come alive on the page.

School Library Journal

Starred Review
Entertaining and engaging. A necessary addition to all collections seeking heartwarming tales of first crushes, and the importance of centering marginalized -history.

Review quotes

This enchanting, modern homage to Pinocchio reminds us anything is possible if we're true to ourselves. — Cynthia Leitich Smith, award-winning author of Ancestor Approved and Sisters of the Neversea

Matteo, the big-hearted, gentle hero of this book, is a shining star. I felt swept up in his magical journey. I'm cheering for his happily ever after. — Natalie Lloyd, New York Times bestselling author of Hummingbird

Full of laughter and love, kindness and curiosity, Matteo is the best type of character to root for. I loved Matteo, and I know you will, too. — Varian Johnson, award-winning author of Twins

PRAISE FOR THE CIVIL WAR OF AMOS ABERNATHY: An irresistible debut filled with heart and humor. Here is a book that doesn't rewrite history so much as broaden its scope, bringing into focus unsung heroes, in a coming of age story that celebrates inclusivity and bravery and pride and love. Sure to connect with young readers and broaden their imaginations about the past, the present, and the future that is theirs to fight for. — Soman Chainani, New York Times bestselling author of the School for Good and Evil series

Heartfelt, humorous, and hopeful, The Civil War of Amos Abernathy affirms that some causes are worth fighting for—whether social justice or a first crush is on the line. Don't be surprised if irrepressible Amos inspires a new wave of changemakers. — Lisa Jenn Bigelow, Lambda Literary Award-winning author of Hazel's Theory of Evolution and Drum Roll, Please

A testament to the power of friendship and conviction, Michael Leali's thoughtful, delightful debut is a gem for any reader beginning to ask 'Why is the world this way? And how can I make it better? — Adib Khorram, award-winning author of Darius the Great Is Not Okay

A compelling debut, brimming with charming characters who take responsibility for making the world around them more honest and more inclusive. — Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal, New York Times Bestselling Co-Authors of I'm Not Dying with You Tonight and Why We Fly

Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2023
BISAC categories
JUV039050 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Emotions & Feelings
JUV039020 - Juvenile Fiction | Social Themes | Adolescence
JUV013010 - Juvenile Fiction | Family | Adoption
JUV032010 - Juvenile Fiction | Sports & Recreation | Baseball
JUV012040 - Juvenile Fiction | Fairy Tales & Folklore | Adaptations
JUV060000 - Juvenile Fiction | LGBT
Library of Congress categories

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