Little Star

Andi Watson’s Little Star continues in the slice-of-life vein of his works Breakfast After Noon and Slow News Day. (The characters from BAN even make a cameo here; Rob’s a stay-at-home dad and Louise has a second on the way.) It’s the character-driven story of a father coming to terms with life choices: balancing work and home, buying the right house, and raising a child.

Little Star cover
Little Star
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Daughter Cassie is old enough to talk, and she’s beginning to develop her own personality. Right now, that involves a bit of childish sexism. She only wants her mother, meaning Dad’s having a hard time doing his share of taking care of the kid. He questions whether he should feel guilt over her time in nursery school and bristles at the unfairness of a system that assumes a man with a screaming child is a kidnapper. He’s trying to give his daughter what she needs in the face of her rejection and ingratitude.

That’s complicated by the uncertainties in their life. How can he be a stable parent when she rejects him and he doesn’t know where they’ll be living next month, depending on whether they can find the house they want? Work’s no better. He’s got a part-time position with no stability and changing requirements. Every choice is a trade-off, and there are no simple answers.

The solar system is a metaphor for his emotional state. He wanted to be an astronaut as a child, and he still star gazes as a hobby, but now the infinite unknowable blackness is a welcome distraction from the more disturbing things he doesn’t know inside his own house. He’s lost, with no map to guide him, both through the constellations and through his own life path, but behind it all is the miracle of new life.

Watson’s crayon-line style here is darker and heavier with more shading, more suited to both the space metaphors and the unpleasant bits of child-rearing portrayed. The first shot of the daughter, she looks absolutely angelic, all half-moon smile and closed eyes and bangs, even though she’s acting tyrannically. Dad spends most of the book sleep-deprived and dragging, reinforcing the feel of the events shown to the reader.

Watson captures faithfully the small moments of parenthood, both in flashback to the birth and currently with the toddler. It’s affecting, meaningful work that obviously comes from the heart. The big questions covered are immediately relatable and even painful in their impact, yet necessary and enlightening. It’s the most mature work yet from an incredible talent.

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