Childhood is supposed to be infused with magic. Kids have this lovely innocence and this lovely vision of life. They’re supposed to think about cowboys and Indians, the latest boy band, unicorns and rainbows. Their main concern should be cleaning up their rooms and doing homework. Everything is black and white. There is a clear wrong and a clear right in a kid’s brain.
I had a blessed childhood.
I read Lullabies for Little Criminals to stretch my mind. Well, I do not think my mind can support such stretching. Heather O’Neill, the author, writes about Baby. Baby is a 12 year old raised by her dad Jules. His best-friend is a needle. Baby moves from one dingy apartment to the next. She gets sent to foster care and to a juvenile penal institution. She starts consuming opiates and she turns to prostitution all before she turns 13.
I could not relate in anyway to the character. I do not know if you need to have lived on the streets or to have had odd-ball parents to really connect with the story. I do not recommend this book especially not to a parent of kids in their pre-teen years.
I did like the fact that the action takes place in Montreal. The author plays very well with the dual language concept and the marriage of cultures. She also has a beautiful turn of phrase. The writing is never blunt. The situations are evoked with subtlety which is why I finished the book.
I’m happy to have encouraged a Canadian Author. Lullabies For Little Criminals was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Awards. The book also won the Canada Reads 2007 award. It was also an Indigo Staff pick at the Laval Indigo store. The book made me feel sad, depressed and the hopeful moments did not get me out of that funk.
Loss of innocence is always sad. In this case, it’s absolutely tragic. Give me the Secret Garden, the Chronicles of Narnia any day over something so dark.
This book could have some therapeutic value for teens in foster care and parents or in tough neighborhoods where drugs and prostitution are part of the everyday reality.
Overall, I give the book a two star rating.