I hope that when you and your families found yourselves at home that it was with a tall stack of library books. The book that has found its way to the top of our stack is When My Brother Gets Home, by Tom Lichtenheld.
As a librarian, it’s always satisfying to pair the right book with the right reader, and this book was just right for my 2-year-old and 6-year-old. Partly, the characters look a bit like them—dark-haired, with a curly-headed older brother and a straight-haired younger sister—but mostly I think they recognize in themselves the rich imaginative life that the fictional characters share. As the younger sister in the book waits for her brother to return home from school, she thinks about what they’ll do together—maybe they’ll build a cardboard box castle or fly around the world in a jumbo jet. Their ordinary suburban neighborhood is full of possibilities when they’re together.
While I’ve been trying to take this book out of rotation (the sight of the brother coming home on the school bus is becoming too heart-wrenching for at least one of us), I will forever be grateful to its author, who set the tone for our intensive family time. Without being remotely sappy or didactic, the book shows what’s best about having a sibling. Do my children still pummel each other and disinvite one another to their birthday parties multiple times each day? Yes. But they’re also engaging in the kind of powerful imaginative play that Lichtenheld describes. I hope it’s what they remember.