“Leali sensitively renders Matteo’s worries about his changing body and budding sexuality via a sweet fairy tale–like atmosphere, charming characters, and fantastical premise.” — Publishers Weekly

Michael Leali (he/him) is an author and educator born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. When Michael isn’t writing, he enjoys reading, playing board games, and a nice long walk.

His debut novel, The Civil War of Amos Abernathy, won the Golden Kite Award for Middle Grade Fiction from SCBWI and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award and the Jane Addams Award. Additionally, it was an ALA Rainbow Book List Top 10 selection, a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard selection, an Indie Next Pick, a Bank Street Best Books of the Year (with a note of outstanding merit), a New York Public Library Best Books for Kids 2022, and an Illinois Reads pick.

Michael's Featured Titles


HarperCollins |
Middle Grade

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.

The Civil War of Amos Abernathy

HarperCollins |
Middle Grade

A heartfelt debut novel about a boy’s attempt to find himself in the history he loves—perfect for fans of Dear Sweet Pea and From the Desk of Zoe Washington.

Amos Abernathy lives for history. Literally. He’s been a historical reenactor nearly all his life. But when a cute new volunteer arrives at his Living History Park, Amos finds himself wondering if there’s something missing from history: someone like the two of them.

Amos is sure there must have been LGBTQ+ people in nineteenth-century Illinois. His search turns up Albert D. J. Cashier, a Civil War soldier who might have identified as a trans man if he’d lived today. Soon Amos starts confiding in his newfound friend by writing letters in his journal—and hatches a plan to share Albert’s story with his divided twenty-first century town. It may be an uphill battle, but it’s one that Amos is ready to fight.

Told in an earnest, hilarious voice, this love letter to history, first crushes, and LGBTQ+ community will delight readers of Ashley Herring Blake, Alex Gino, or Maulik Pancholy.


Author Talk: The Civil War of Amos Abernathy

Inspired by his debut novel THE CIVIL WAR OF AMOS ABERNATHY, Michael will break down why it’s so important to consider who is telling the story of history. This presentation will include information about the LGBTQ+ community of the past and the importance of representation and authenticity. Michael will also discuss how a book gets made and why every readers’ story matters.


Author Talk: Matteo

Inspired by his second novel MATTEO, Michael will discuss why we retell beloved stories from history, fairytales, myths, and legends. Michael will also discuss how a book gets made and why every readers’ story matters.


Writers Workshop: Writing from Memory

This 45-60 minute writing workshop can be adapted for writers grade five and up! Michael will lead a series of exercises that will ask them to engage with an early memory, activate sensory details, and then look at their work from a different perspective.

AMOS Teaching Guide

E Train Talks Podcast on Matteo

Honors, Awards & Recognition

An ALA Rainbow Book List Top 10 Selection
Golden Kite Award Winner
New York Public Library Best Books for Kids
ALA Booklist Top 10 First Novels for Youth
Jane Addams Award finalist
Lambda Literary Award Finalist
Indie Next Pick
JLG Gold Standard Selection
Bank Street Best Books of the Year (with a note of outstanding merit)
Illinois Reads Pick
Starred reviews from BOOKLIST and SLJ

Starred review from BOOKLIST

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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