The push and literal pull (usually hair) of sibling rivalry is explored in a direct and comically knowing way in animator Thomas’ debut picture book.
Woody and Annie, whose names can't be an accidental allusion to the famous New York filmmaker, are a brother and sister who can't stop fighting. They’ve stressed out their mother, who, in a had-enough moment of brilliance, serves up a fitting punishment: Woody and Annie must hug out every conflict. The fighting continues in progressively ferocious fashion until the hugging punishment proves too much. “ ‘I can't take one more hug,’ Annie finally admitted. ‘Me neither,’ sighed Woody. ‘I'm as flat as a pancake!’ ” The two spend time apart until the inevitable thaw brings them back together toward a predictable but highly effective punch line: getting into trouble because they miss the hugs. Not surprisingly, Thomas’ watercolors throughout convey a strong sense of cinematic motion: as Mom contemplates the first “Hug it out,” a double-page spread gives readers the equivalent of a suspenseful close-up. There's a cute cat and a mouse hiding in the background of some of the pages, but it's Annie and Woody, a pair of white towheads, who fill this book with smarts and life.
It's not a complex story, but it's a wise one that shows through a specific example how siblings get along, even when they often don't. (Picture book. 3-7)