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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.