Lullabies for Little Criminals

Lullabies for Little Criminals

[a Novel]

Book - 2006
Average Rating:
Rate this:

A new deluxe edition of the international bestseller by Heather O'Neill, the Giller-shortlisted author of Daydreams of Angels and The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, featuring an original foreword from the author, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the coming-of-age story that People describes as "a vivid portrait of life on skid row."

Baby, all of thirteen years old, is lost in the gangly, coltish moment between childhood and the strange pulls and temptations of the adult world. Her mother is dead; her father, Jules, is scarcely more than a child himself and is always on the lookout for his next score. Baby knows that "chocolate milk" is Jules' slang for heroin and sees a lot more of that in her house than the real article. But she takes vivid delight in the scrappy bits of happiness and beauty that find their way to her, and moves through the threat of the streets as if she's been choreographed in a dance.

Soon, though, a hazard emerges that is bigger than even her hard-won survival skills can handle. Alphonse, the local pimp, has his eye on her for his new girl; he wants her body and soul--and what the johns don't take he covets for himself. At the same time, a tender and naively passionate friendship unfolds with a boy from her class at school, who has no notion of the dark claims on her--which even her father, lost on the nod, cannot totally ignore. Jules consigns her to a stint in juvie hall, and for the moment this perceived betrayal preserves Baby from terrible harm--but after that, her salvation has to be her own invention.

Channeling the artlessly affecting voice of her thirteen-year-old heroine with extraordinary accuracy and power, Heather O'Neill's heartbreaking and wholly original debut novel blew readers away when it was first published ten years ago. Now in a new deluxe package it is sure to capture its next decade of readers as Baby picks her pathway along the edge of the abyss to arrive at a place of redemption, and of love.

Publisher: New York : Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.
ISBN: 9780062468475
Branch Call Number: FICTION ONE


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Jul 05, 2019

Whew. Difficult story to read. Excellent story to read. Emotions.

Feb 15, 2019

Most of the book seems to have no traditional plot, and instead reads like a memoir. The basic story is that Baby is 12 year old kid living with her drug addict father, whose instability drives her to commit crimes and find love and attention outside the home. There is eventually a climax. Unfortunately, Baby never gains the strength or intelligence to get out of her situation; it just happens passively for her against her will, a matter of luck.
Minor complaints:
The author does a good job with detail, similes, and humor, but goes overboard with it to the point of absurdity.
It seems unrealistic because the narrator is supposed to be 12 but acts more like 7 in her innocence, clingy to her dad, carrying around dolls, collecting rocks, and afraid of the dark. She is also unrealistically optimistic. Even if a kid doesn't know any better than the environment they're growing up in, they surely see other kids living better lives at school and on TV.
Her father is supposed to be in his 20s but he acts more like an old man. Near the middle of the book, Baby narrates that he has a cuss word in every sentence, but he actually doesn't cuss in every sentence. It's like the author just inserted that line about him cussing in every sentence as yet another reason on the long list of reasons for why Jules can't get a job.
The author inserts so many random details about every character that it's hard to remember them all. I wonder if she even remembered them herself as she wrote the book. I guess it avoids the problem of the characters seeming flat, but it's unrealistic to me that every character in the book is such a weirdo.
Despite these minor complaints, I still enjoyed the book. It was entertaining to read even though it was very sad.
The back of the book includes details about the author. The first half of her childhood was spent in Virginia with her mom, a woman similar to Jeannette Walls' (author of Glass Castle) mother. The second half of her childhood was spent in Canada with her dad, where she lived a life similar to the one described in this book.

Sep 26, 2017

Lullabies for Little Criminals written by Heather O’Neill, is a fiction novel about a young girl named Baby. Surrounded by a toxic social and family environment, Baby is left on her own and is forced to mature quickly. After being exposed to drugs and prostitution, Baby’s innocence quickly diminishes. I think this heartbreaking novel is one to take you on a rollercoaster of emotions. I cried and laughed and then I cried again, all in the span of this book. Although I read this for a school assignment, this novel was a quick and very interesting read. I feel as though the ideas are so original, it helps add an incredibly captivating element. The themes of innocence, maturity, and loneliness are eye opening, and I think is perfect for anyone looking for a novel with dimension. I would rate this novel 4/5.
@TheCuriousBookworm of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board

This is a hard book to write a review for, as I'm not really sure how I actually feel about it. I liked the book in terms of subject, how I was able to see the perspective and experiences of a young girl whose childhood was different from mine in almost every way possible. But at the same time, there were certain parts of this story that I wasn't sure if I should just ignore because they did add a crucial part to the plot of the story, or if I should be angry at them because it really is so wrong. But now I'm thinking that that is for each reader to decide on their own, and also the emotions the author was hoping we felt while reading. Props to Ms. O'Neill for creating such a thought-provoking, eye-opening story. I have a love/hate relationship with it. 3.5/5 Stars
- @activistreader of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Apr 04, 2017

It is a sad but still engrossing novel. I wonder just how much of it is autobiographical, as Heather did grow up with her father (and not her mother) in Montreal.

Mar 09, 2017

Kim T. recommended it, well written

Aug 27, 2016

Excellent book and very well written. Sometimes we judge people without knowing or understanding their life circumstances and why they are so different from what we think fits under the label "normal". This book povides an example of how quickly someone's life could change its direction and how difficult it could be to cope with those changes.

Feb 02, 2016

Once in a while a great book comes along that you will remember long after having read it. This happens to be one of those rare books.

There are many passages that I found moving and if read it with a highlighter it would be almost completely marked.

The story in the book seems to reflect the author's childhood. Her writings of the bleak situation are moving and it is sad to think that any child has to live like that but it is a reality for some.

Sep 27, 2015

Heather O'Neill is a very good writer. This book is very sad and thought provoking. Should be, if not already, on the reading list for social work courses.

mmokrz01 Jun 29, 2015

I love, love, love this book! One of my favorites! ... I recommend it to everyone.

kbo90 Mar 14, 2015 good. Not to be missed.

View All Comments

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Feb 15, 2019

bell5133 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Apr 23, 2014

Lucas6 thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Sep 13, 2011

asampogna thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Feb 24, 2009

AMM thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Quote
Mar 04, 2008

Suddenly I realized that I wanted everything to be as it was when I was younger. When you're young enough, you don't know that you live in a cheap lousy apartment. A cracked chair is nothing other than a chair. A dandelion growing out of a crack in the sidewalk outside your front door is a garden. You could believe that a song your parent was singing in the evening was the most tragic opera in the world. It never occurs to you when you are very young to need something other than what your parents have to offer you.

Mar 04, 2008

No matter how scuzzy and crazy their parents are, kids still try to make them feel good about themselves.

Mar 04, 2008

I don't know why I was upset about not being an adult. It was right around the corner. Becoming a child again is what is impossible. That's what you have legitimate reason to be upset over. Childhood is the most valuable thing that's take away from you in life, if you think about it.

Mar 04, 2008

If you want a child to love you, then you should just go and hide in the closet for 3 or 4 hours. They get down on their knees and pray for you to return. That child will turn you into God. Lonely children probably wrote the bible.


Add Notices
Sep 13, 2011

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

Sep 13, 2011

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at CPL

To Top