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Heather O’Neill’s critically acclaimed debut novel, with a new introduction from the author to celebrate its ten-year anniversary

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 thing. 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—and what the johns don’t take he covets for himself. If Baby cannot learn to become her own salvation, his dark world threatens to claim her, body and soul.

Channeling the artlessly affecting voice of her thirteen-year-old heroine with extraordinary accuracy and power, Heather O’Neill’s debut novel blew readers away when it was first published ten years ago. Now it’s 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.

Featuring a new introduction from the author

CBC Canada reads winner, Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction winner, Orange Prize for Fiction finalist, Governor General’s Literary Award finalist, International Impac Dublin Literary Award finalist

Praise for Lullabies for Little Criminals

“A vivid portrait of life on skid row.”—People

“A nuanced, endearing coming-of-age novel you won’t want to miss.”—Quill And Quire

“Vivid and poignant. . . . A deeply moving and troubling novel.”—The Independent (London)

“O’Neill is a tragicomedienne par excellence. . . . You will not want to miss this tender depiction of some very mean streets.”—Montreal Review of Books

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780061856907
List price: $10.99
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So, so beautifully written, but I still found it a bit aimless. I annoyed so many people by saying this that I will give up saying any more....more
My husband must have thought I was crazy while I was reading this book, as I had tears running down my face one moment and I would burst out laughing the next. The young girl in the story, Baby, did not have a good life but for her it was just the way it was. I have read some articles that Heather O'Neill has written for Chatelaine and I can understand where her inspiration for the story came from.more
There is a lot of dark and ugly raw material in this book about a young girl from a hopelessly dysfunctional single parent family. She sees her sordid world as the norm, with sadness and loneliness her primary emotions. Author Heather O'Neill very adeptly gets into the delinquent mindset. It's a sad story, but there is hope. Worth the read.more
While I really wanted to be impressed with Lullabies for Little Criminals, I had to be truthful and tell you that I had had to force myself to keep reading and finish it. Having read the back cover and summary, I thought this would be good for me, because I love heart-breaking books and all. And as I read on, I constantly found it easier to put down. It bored me most of the time. It didn't break my heart at all. The story was slow. And I don't really have much patience with slow-going books, unless they're really good. But this book is not really good. So that's why I put it down for a few days just to pick it up later. It took me a week to finish this book. As for me, I don't have any big problems with the writing. O'Neill's writing is fine, as far as writing goes. I guess what didn't impress me is the whole story. It didn't work for me. I did feel something for Baby, the unfortunate 12-year-old girl in the book, though. Her mother died when she was a baby. She lives with her good-for-nothing father, Jules, who does a lot of drugs. They have to move around a lot. Jules loved Baby when she was younger, but then she comes of age, and he suddenly finds it difficult to love her. He starts to expect the worst of her, blaming her for things that she didn't do, and accusing her of being a whore. Everything she does seems to piss him off. I sympathized with her plight, until she goes and becomes a prostitute and starts to do drugs. I had no sympathy for that. People have choices. To be or not to be, that's the question. And she chose to be, which I found very unreasonable, because it's not like she's desperate. She's happy with what she has, but she does it anyway, and not keeping anything she earns. I don't get this aspect of the book. I mean, why would she destroy herself like that, even with no motives? At first I guessed it was because she wanted to piss Jules off even more by actually being one. But then I thought that it didn't make much sense. Baby doesn't seem to be the kind of person who takes vengeance. So that still remains unclear to me and I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in figuring that out anymore. Anyway. I guess I'd have to say I wasn't very impressed with this book. Do I think reading it was somewhat a torture? Hmmm, yes, actually, though not all the time. If you need something to put to you sleep in any case, this book is for you. It will bore to you sleep. Guaranteed.more
Read all 37 reviews

Reviews

So, so beautifully written, but I still found it a bit aimless. I annoyed so many people by saying this that I will give up saying any more....more
My husband must have thought I was crazy while I was reading this book, as I had tears running down my face one moment and I would burst out laughing the next. The young girl in the story, Baby, did not have a good life but for her it was just the way it was. I have read some articles that Heather O'Neill has written for Chatelaine and I can understand where her inspiration for the story came from.more
There is a lot of dark and ugly raw material in this book about a young girl from a hopelessly dysfunctional single parent family. She sees her sordid world as the norm, with sadness and loneliness her primary emotions. Author Heather O'Neill very adeptly gets into the delinquent mindset. It's a sad story, but there is hope. Worth the read.more
While I really wanted to be impressed with Lullabies for Little Criminals, I had to be truthful and tell you that I had had to force myself to keep reading and finish it. Having read the back cover and summary, I thought this would be good for me, because I love heart-breaking books and all. And as I read on, I constantly found it easier to put down. It bored me most of the time. It didn't break my heart at all. The story was slow. And I don't really have much patience with slow-going books, unless they're really good. But this book is not really good. So that's why I put it down for a few days just to pick it up later. It took me a week to finish this book. As for me, I don't have any big problems with the writing. O'Neill's writing is fine, as far as writing goes. I guess what didn't impress me is the whole story. It didn't work for me. I did feel something for Baby, the unfortunate 12-year-old girl in the book, though. Her mother died when she was a baby. She lives with her good-for-nothing father, Jules, who does a lot of drugs. They have to move around a lot. Jules loved Baby when she was younger, but then she comes of age, and he suddenly finds it difficult to love her. He starts to expect the worst of her, blaming her for things that she didn't do, and accusing her of being a whore. Everything she does seems to piss him off. I sympathized with her plight, until she goes and becomes a prostitute and starts to do drugs. I had no sympathy for that. People have choices. To be or not to be, that's the question. And she chose to be, which I found very unreasonable, because it's not like she's desperate. She's happy with what she has, but she does it anyway, and not keeping anything she earns. I don't get this aspect of the book. I mean, why would she destroy herself like that, even with no motives? At first I guessed it was because she wanted to piss Jules off even more by actually being one. But then I thought that it didn't make much sense. Baby doesn't seem to be the kind of person who takes vengeance. So that still remains unclear to me and I'm pretty sure I'm not interested in figuring that out anymore. Anyway. I guess I'd have to say I wasn't very impressed with this book. Do I think reading it was somewhat a torture? Hmmm, yes, actually, though not all the time. If you need something to put to you sleep in any case, this book is for you. It will bore to you sleep. Guaranteed.more
Baby lives with her father, Jules, a heroin addict. She doesn't remember her mother:He and my mother had both been fifteen when I was born. She had died a year later, so he'd been left to raise me all by himself. It didn't make him any more mature than any other twenty-six-year-old, though. He practically fell on the floor and died when a song he liked came on the radio. He was always telling people that he was color-blind because he thought it made him sound original. He also didn't look too much like a parent ... I thought of him as my best friend, as if we were almost the same age. (p. 4)Jules tries to make a living and support his habit by peddling merchandise at flea markets. To stay one step ahead of their landlord they seem to always be on the move. Baby knows how to fit her entire life into a small suitcase. Despite all these disadvantages, Baby is smart and does well in school. She seems determined to overcome the odds, but her world is turned upside down when Jules goes into rehab, and Baby into the foster care system. Over the next year, Baby moves in and out of care, is placed into a remedial program at school, and gets sucked into the unhealthy lifestyle on the streets of Montreal.Baby narrates her story with an authentic twelve-year-old's voice, and really got on my nerves for the first half of the book. But as her personal hardships intensified, so did my sympathy, and I found myself pulling for her. She was often left on her own for days at a time, and had to grow up far too quickly. I understood why she did what she did, but wished I could influence her choices (I'm avoiding spoilers here).Such a realistic and gritty story should have been "unputdownable." It thought it was an interesting and unique book, but had no problem setting it aside. It may have just been my mood this past week; I still recommend reading this Orange Prize nominee.more
Baby is an unconventional name for an unconventional girl. Baby lost her mother when she was young, so young that she has no memories of the woman who gave birth to her. All she has is a drug addicted, emotionally unstable, and nomadic father who moves her from one insect infested, tattered walled apartment to the next. Baby's life puts the term poverty to shame as she oscillates between a little girl who craves the love and affection of her absent father, to the young and rebellious teen that one day finds herself with not only a pimp as a boyfriend, but the delusional glamour of being a prostitute. I thought I would be shocked, outraged, or at least indignant at what life doled out for Baby and yet somehow the dysfunctionality that is her normal, somehow seemed normal. It's the idea that if you don't know better, you wouldn't expect or demand better. The world that Baby exists is the only world she knows and like an endangered species, she carves out a niche of her very own. It is by no mean a childhood transition into adulthood that one would desire, but in its own shattered emptiness, there was a faint gleam of redemption. Lullabies for Criminals was not what I expected, but it worked, and the chord it struck can still be heard echoing within me.more
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