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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Guest Post: Tom Lichtenheld Gives Us a Peek Into “When My Brother Gets Home”

From idea to execution. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Folks love process. They really do. And once in a while you get a bit of a peek behind the curtain on how one book or another came to be. When My Brother Gets Home has already bagged a couple starred reviews and it’s coming out today. To celebrate, creator Tom Lichtenheld gives us a bit on the backstory of how it all went down.

Take it away, Tom!

“When My Brother Gets Home” was inspired by a simple scene that told an entire story.

While driving in my neighborhood one early fall afternoon, I noticed a young boy on the opposite side of the street, standing on the parkway and craning his neck in an effort to see down the street. I followed his gaze and saw a school bus approaching from the opposite direction. A slight curve in the road hid the bus from his view, adding a bit of drama to the scene.

(This is the street where the story was given to me.)

The bus came into his view just as I passed by, so I got to see him jumping up and down in anticipation of what would happen next.

The story was obvious; the boy was eagerly waiting for his sibling to get home from school, when the two of them would play out the rest of this crisp, sunny day.

I went home and immediately did a sketch; trying to capture the boy’s body language and sense of anticipation.

Any time I can get a story into one image, it’s worth exploring. Then I put the sketch onto a cover to see if feels book-worthy.


I still wasn’t sure the story had enough depth to become a book so the idea sat around for eight years while I worked on other projects. When I finally went back to it, I changed the child from a boy to a girl because I have a younger sister who was a bit of a tomboy, which gave me a head start on developing the character.


I added a dog because it gave me another character to help tell the story visually.

Also, I love drawing dogs!

There’s never enough room for all of my ideas in a book, so some things get left behind. This is just one of many in the “overflow” pile.

This car, a ‘50s Nash Metropolitan, is in the book for Marla Frazee, who shares my obsession with it. See if you can find it in one of her books!

Thanks for the sneaky peek, Tom! Thanks too to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Anna Ravanelle for putting this all together.

Now if you don’t mind, I’m off to find some more ’50s Nash Metropolitans . . .

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. Judy. Weymouth says

    Thank you, Betsy, for your post today. This is one folk who “does love process” and I enjoyed the behind the scene look very much.