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Lullabies for Little Criminals

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  16,983 Ratings  ·  1,353 Reviews
A gritty, heart-wrenching novel about bruised innocence on the city's feral streets—the remarkable debut of a stunning literary talent

Heather O'Neill dazzles with a first novel of extraordinary prescience and power, a subtly understated yet searingly effective story of a young life on the streets—and the strength, wits, and luck necessary for survival.

At thirteen, Baby vac
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Paperback, 330 pages
Published October 17th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published 2006)
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karen
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
don't make your books look like chick lit if you want people to read 'em.

more free advice from me.

but it's true - not all of us have a sarah montambo in our lives to tell us, "no, this is really very good." because it is. and this is not just me groping all the canadian books in the corner of the dancefloor, this book is a sparkly little gem.

at the beginning, it reminded me a lot of weetzie bat. it is a similarly glossy-slick storytelling style, but this one is about a girl with a loving junkie
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Kim
Aug 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
Damn. This book just about broke my heart. It wormed its way in and split me three ways---three different identities rubbernecking in the lives of Jules and Baby.

The story is seen through the eyes of Baby, a 12 yr old who lives with her Dad in Montreal. Her Mom died when she was one and Jules, well… bless him, but he’s not the most responsible guy on the planet.

Jules is the first rip in my identity crisis: He is still a child himself, having had Baby at 15 and deciding to take her out of the
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Ben Babcock
Second Review: January 26, 2016

Wow, did I ever write more concise reviews in 2008!

In that spirit, I don’t have much to add after this second reading. I’m teaching this to my Grade 12 English class of adult Aboriginal learners. We spend a lot of time reading texts by/about Indigenous people and issues, such as Indian Horse . I wanted to expose them to a slice of Canadian identity (Francophone culture) they haven’t encountered before. In doing so, we can compare that experience to the experience
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Tatiana
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Tatiana by: karen
Shelves: 2017
This book made me sick to both my heart and stomach.

But it has to be said, Heather O'Neill writes about the most gruesome experiences in poverty and crime with remarkable affection. It's a very interesting perspective that she, after having lived in circumstances similar to Baby's, has such a fond, nostalgic view of her past.
Ammar
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Omg what a debut

I can't believe I haven't read this book till now.

Montreal.. it's underbelly through the eyes of a 12 turning 13 girl. Raw. Funny. Sad and shocking.

Baby our narrator, her father Jules and a cast of desirable and undesirable characters from different walks of life. I'm thinking It's the 1970s and there is a lot of delinquency, drug use, prostitution, and gangs.

The narrative is fresh and sharp, the child is smart so the reader gets a sharp perspective of the street life and the
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Wanda
If you want to get a child to love you, then you should just go hide in the closet for three or four 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.

We forget, as we get older, how vulnerable it feels to be a child. To not be in charge. Not responsible for where you live, what you eat, or where your money comes from. In fact, we tend to idealize those days, thinking wouldn’t it be wonderful to go back to
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Sharon
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
I want to say that I liked this book, I really do, but in the end I can only say that I tolerated it. I found the voice to be simultaneously irritating and endearing. The narrator, a 12/13 year old street child named Baby, has a habit of describing everything with multiple similes:

After he said that, his kisses began to feel good. They were like tubes of lipstick being crushed against my mouth. I took comfort in his kisses. They were so soft now. They made me smile. His kisses tasted like my tea
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Jessica
Jul 26, 2007 rated it it was ok
Oh, I really did want to like this book. I fell in love with Heather O'Neill's story about Jesus in middle school on This American Life, and was hoping for more writing like that. Instead, I often found her writing style so distracting that it was hard to stay in the story. Just opening the book to a couple random pages:
"The snowflakes came down like little bits of newspaper. The night was a typewriter key that got stuck and kept punching all the letters on top of the others until all that was l
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Betsy Robinson
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is nothing like a well-written novel about growing up with a certifiably insane parent. I think there should be a new subgenre of literary novel/Bildungsroman called “family psychosis,” and I would put this book near the top of the list as one that is really well done.

Told from an adult perspective, looking back at herself as a 12-year-old, first-person protagonist Baby intrepidly follows her drug-addicted father around Montreal as he gets clean but becomes increasingly paranoid. She bounc
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tee
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
A more apt title would have been Similes for Little Criminals, it would have better prepared me for the onslaught of cutesy prose which, amazingly, did not bother me in the slightest even though sometimes I felt like I was being bashed over the head by cotton candy stuffed condoms. Like jelly filled gloves, slapping me gently but steadily across the face like the hand of a moody yet camp pimp. Guys, I am fucking THIRTY years old now. I can not get away with writing scathing, whiny reviews becaus ...more
Dan
Aug 16, 2008 rated it did not like it
Not for one minute did I believe this narrator's voice. In every paragraph, the author muscled her way in front of the story and waved at me--"Look at me, I'm a writer! Check out this metaphor!"
Barbara McEwen
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
5 stars - what? a perfect novel?! No, not technically perfect, but man this one spoke to me. Characters, place, prose, all sucked me in an had me riveted start to finish. She portrays that age (12-13) just so true to life (at least for me). That bizarre time between childhood and adulthood and both the strengths and vulnerabilities of kids growing up in a tough situation. I like a good weird book so this was a treasure for me for sure.
Mel
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book was a really good debut novel!

A funny tidbit about this book before I review it: this was immensely popular when I was young. In my middle school and high school library, this book was always checked out. I don't know if it's because this is a Canadian book, or because it's set in Canada, but I definitely expected this to be a lot more popular than it is according to Goodreads.

That being said, I'm glad I finally read this Canadian classic novel. It is set in Montreal, the city I live
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, book-club, 2007
Baby (that's her real name) is eleven going on twelve. Her mother is dead, her father, Jules, has raised her alone in Montreal. He's only 26, and more of a child than she is. He's also a heroin addict, a "loser" as Baby is well aware. They constantly move apartments, often to escape people Jules owes money to, and wear clothes often pilfered from the lost and found boxes.

Baby is smart, though. She does well at school, except for the times when she was younger when she followed Jules advice. But
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Donna
Jan 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canlit
A magnificently beautiful first novel, and I didn’t want it to end!! O’Neill has a magical, musical storytelling style that is a pure joy to read, even when the subject matter is as dark as this. The story is about 12-year-old Baby, being (kind of) raised by her heroin-addicted and shiftless single father. It is an engrossing account written from the perspective of this thoughtful, precocious and surprisingly philosophical youngster, a memoir of life in the seedy corners of Montreal — a life tha ...more
JK
Jun 16, 2015 rated it did not like it
There are so many reviews of this book out there, and it’s difficult to find one which will say a bad thing about this book. It has been praised so highly that I had no choice but to read it. It’s described it as outstanding, witty, riveting and believable. To me, unfortunately, this book was none of these things, and I cannot begin to imagine why people thought it was. I hated it from beginning to end; it was truly awful.

When I start a book, I like to finish it. I like to get a good idea of th
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Diana Jorge-tulk
Jan 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was heartbreaking and sad. It made me realize how children are really left to the mercy of their parents and in this case her father. This is not a feel good book, but it doesn't mean that it's not a good book. I liked it a lot and I would recommend it. But be warned its gut wrenching and part of that is because its very believable. The author did a great job with that. You just know that there are children everywhere living these messed up desperate life's by no fault of there own. An ...more
Kristina
Jan 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
I couldn't put this book down. The narrators voice and descriptions were great. Some of the sentences made me want to laugh out loud and cry in the same moment. It was pretty disturbing throughout, as one should expect a story about a young teenage girl with a heroine addict father and deceased mother to be. Honestly, I read it under the impression that it was a memoir, so I really thought the story was true, at least as far as the author remembered it. I don't know if I would have enjoyed it qu ...more
Natalie
May 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with a heart.
Ok, so this one actually kept me up at night, both in the sense that I didn't want to have to put it down, and then once I did, the images still plagued my brain. I don't know what I can say about it... it was beautifully written, almost poetic in her descriptions, if such a thing can be said given the content of what is being described... those who have read it will completely understand. She did such a good job of recapturing the thought processes, and the mentality of being that young.. the i ...more
Anja Banjanja
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a book I think I will be "carrying" with me for the long time.

It is heartbreaking and beautiful, scary and lovely. I don't think I can do right to it with any review, so just trust me and read it.

What I can say is that Heather O'Neill has a style of writing that is absolutely original and wonderful. Her sentences are amazing, the words she chooses are stunning and the characters make you want to cry and smile at the same time. She managed to write about such horrific things in such pret
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Sarika
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Lullabies for Little Criminals, set in the crime-alerted city of Montreal, is Heather O'Neill's most extraordinary piece of writing so far. I happened to glance through the first few pages of this book when I was hunting for books to help me endure my Summer holidays, at my local bookstore, and luckily I was only able to skim through the beginning of the book before deciding to buy it. Because had I seen what was in store for me at the climax, I wouldn't have hesitated before slamming that book ...more
Kelly
Jun 30, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Kelly by: NRS
Shelves: read-in-2012
12 year old Baby lives with her 27 year old father Jules in a run down apartment in Montreal. She's known little else of life, seeing that her mother was tragically killed at a young age, and for the most part, life's been okay with Jules. He tries hard and he provides what he can when he can.

Except, now that Baby is at that tender age of awareness of adults and their faults, she's realizing Jules is far more troubled than she ever believed. He is in and out of rehab for drugs, for illness, for
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Aaron
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I give this a 4.5. This novel made my chest hurt. I'm not sure if it's because I could relate to its characters or because of how elegantly the prose has been written. Probably a lot of both. Lullabies for Little Criminals reminded me just how much power and responsiblity that adults have over kids. Any shitty parent or older sibling should read this book and remember the fact that all they have to do to help those around them is just care. It made me think about what poverty would be like if th ...more
R K
This was fabulous.
Absolutely wonderful.

Taking place in Montreal, Lullabies for Little Criminals tells the story of a 12 year old girl named Baby who lives on the streets. Moving from hotel to hotel with her father (a 27 year old heroin addict) Baby shows you exactly what life is like when you're right between childhood and adulthood. That moment where you're still innocent but becoming aware of the darkness that encompasses adulthood.

Baby tells you from the start that she doesn't want your symp
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Margitte
Twelve-year old Baby lives with her drug-addicted, irresponsible twenty-seven-year old father in Montreal,Canada, where they move from place to place, from dump to dump. Her mom died and Jules, her dad, is still a kid himself.

It is an endearing, upsetting, touching story - shocking at most, and depressing. But very well written. The prose is excellent. I am not convinced though that a twelve-year-old told the story, although the culture and behaviour was well expressed. But I could 'hear' the ad
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Diana Tilson
Apr 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
I started reading this almost a year ago and put it down halfway through because I was too depressed by the child prostitution in it, but I braved it again recently. One of the things I like most about this is that even while terrible things are happening, there is a determination to represent lightness and whimsy in the midst of squalor. The character's father, Jules, is a sympathetic, idiosyncratic character despite being a recklessly negligent junkie, and there is a sweetness in their connect ...more
Allie
Jun 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-reads, canada
A completely brilliant look at what it feels like to be 12 going on 13 as an impressionable and fearless girl. It is also a simultaneously realistic and idealized look at a lower-class life with a junkie father.

Another review points out how the cover of this book makes it look like chick-lit, and how that does a disservice to the story. I agree. This is a piece of literature with depth and nuance, there is no fluff to be found and I wish people weren't so quick to judge by the cover.

A wonderfu
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Melissa
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
It feels off-kilter to have such maddening love for a book that is so distressing, but I have to say that this is the loveliest writing about child prostitution & heroin addiction ever. I can turn to any page in this book & find something marvelous.

"For a kid, I knew a lot of things about what it felt like to use heroin, just from looking and listening. Supposedly, it was like shaking hands with God. It was cool like a Black Panther. It was like putting your face on the fur collar of a
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Leona
Dec 11, 2014 rated it it was ok
For me this started out very strong, but unfortunately just fizzled out.

In the beginning, the character of "Baby" was so complex - quixotic, charming, but extremely "street smart". I fell in love with her instantly and was totally captured by her ingenuity and ability to navigate a brutal world. But as life knocked her down, instead of becoming more connected with her world, I felt a distance emerge and she became stereotypical, one-dimensional, and predictable. At that point, I just wanted to
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Sarah
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
I just stumbled across this book, which I read back in high school. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time, the story of a twelve-year-old girl Baby who safe to say has a pretty rough life.

Baby lives with her Dad who's a drug addict with an undiagnosed mental illness. They don't have any money and Baby lives in foster homes when her Dad can't take care of her. Everything gets worse when Baby becomes involved with the neighbourhood pimp.

“Becoming a child again is what is imposs
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Heather O'Neill was born in Montreal and attended McGill University.

She published her debut novel, Lullabies for Little Criminals, in 2006. The novel won the Canada Reads competition (2007) and was awarded the Hugh Maclennan Award (2007). It was nominated for eight other awards included the Orange Prize, the Governor General's Award and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Prize. It was an international bes
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More about Heather O'Neill

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“People give you a hard time about being a kid at twelve. They didn't want to give you Halloween candy anymore. They said things like, "If this were the Middle Ages, you'd be married and you'd own a farm with about a million chickens on it." They were trying to kick you out of childhood. Once you were gone, there was no going back, so you had to hold on as long as you could.” 136 likes
“From the way that people have always talked about your heart being broken, it sort of seemed to be a one-time thing. Mine seemed to break all the time.” 82 likes
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