Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Lullabies for Little Criminals

O'Neill, Heather (Author)
HarperCollins 2016. 352 pages
First published: 2006
ISBN: 9780062468475 (paperback)
9780062484123 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, dialogue, setting

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Baby is 12 years old. Her teen mom died early, while her father, Jules, is a 26-year-old heroin addict, who moves their unstable but basically loving home constantly, sometimes leaving his daughter in the care of foster parents or friends. Baby compares her father to “a doll whose stuffing was coming out.” She’s a tough kid, but a kid nonetheless, and even street-smart and surrounded by hard drugs and hard cases, she longs for childhood. She falls in with a john named Alphonse and starts turning tricks, but still strives to do well in school. When she succumbs to the palliative lure of heroin, she suspects she and her father both got hooked for the same reason: “we were both fools who were too fragile to be sad.” In the end, Alphonse’s death, Baby’s reunion with Jules, and her relocation from Montréal to her father’s village of origin allow a glimmer of possible redemption.

Baby’s voice drives the novel and defines her character, with short sentences, absurd and imaginative declarations, and bursts of dark consciousness, musing, for instance, that “as a kid, you have nothing to do with the way the world is run; you just have to hurry to keep up with it.” The strung-out demi-monde Jules and Baby inhabit is believably harsh, but the details, though bleak, reveal vestiges of humanity, and Baby persists in clinging to snatched wisps of warmth.

The 10th anniversary edition includes an introduction by the author, as well as a section with biographical background and information about the book.

  •  

    Typically, in a “coming of age” story, the main character experiences growth throughout the novel, usually ending at a definite point where they are grown up. Here, the author constructs her protagonist, Baby, as a girl crossing the line between childhood and adulthood as she negotiates her world and the people who inhabit it.

  •  

    The author writes that “an unwanted child is a hero on the streets.” In a small group, discuss how this idea is expressed in the novel.

  •  

    The text may be included in a set for book clubs that explore issues related to growing up, the impact of the environment on the individual, mental health issues, etc.

  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal Development