THE As much as all young children like to believe in their own independence, their choices and actions are usually influenced by the adults in their lives. After reading the first section of Lullabies for Little Criminals, I can’t help but reflect on how important it is to be a good role model to younger people.
Baby is a twelve-year old girl being raised in Montreal by her father Jules (her mother died when she was just one). Jules himself is only 26 years old, developing a heroin addiction that often sends him to the hospital or into rehabilitation, forcing Baby to spend time at various foster homes. Living in what some may call the underbelly of Montreal, she is constantly exposed to drugs, theft and violence. Yet through all of this turmoil, Baby’s love for her father remains unconditional. This is unsurprising, as many kids look up to their parents. But when the parent happens to be a very bad influence (as is the case with Jules), the children will often follow their lead.
Children will often imitate their parents. Retrieved from: http://kid101.com/children-see-children-do-make-your-influences-positive/
One event that stands out to me is when Baby goes to visit her father at the rehabilitation center. After they struggle to find things to talk about, another addict named Oliver walks in, immediately striking up a conversation with Jules. Baby silently observes that her father “began to look more comfortable all of a sudden” (O’Neill 68). Shortly after leaving, she has a very troubling thought: “I was very firm on the idea that I would become a drug addict too now. I didn’t care what drug I was going to be addicted to. Oliver could hang out with my dad just because he was a stoner ” (72). Baby, who has always viewed her father as her best friend, feels as if she is losing her connection with him, and thus resolves to do drugs. Shortly after, she gets her hands on mushrooms and tries them with her friend Felix.
Upon first glance, it’s easy to blame Baby for being so reckless. However, growing up, I also had a tendency to do things that my parents did just so that I could have another thing to talk about. I remember starting many book series just because my mom had read them. This connection helps me see Baby as a normal kid, but in tragic circumstances. I can’t know for sure, but I might have done the exact same thing as Baby if I had lived my life in her shoes. The fact that children are so readily influenced by what their parents do drives home the message of how important it is to be a good role model.
Projecting further into the story, I can’t help but fear for Baby. Jules has returned from the rehabilitation center angry and distraught, driving a wedge between him and his daughter. Furthermore, Baby has already tried a drug as strong as mushrooms; who’s to say she won’t do anything else? Finally, the fact that Baby has been hanging around Theo, a boy terrorizing the other children at the community center, makes me question what kind of person she is developing into. With the way her father has been acting, and the fact that “Criminals” is in the title, I think the writing is on the wall for Baby to run away from home and become involved in some sort of crime.
On another note, O’Neill’s style of writing has made reading this book an enjoyable experience. In particular, she creates very vivid imagery and clear descriptions using similes and metaphors that also manage to reflect Baby’s thoughts. One example where I thought she did this particularly well was in her description of Baby’s new room: “Mary showed me where I was going to sleep, in a room that wasn’t much bigger than a walk-in closet at the end of the hall. There wasn’t a window. It was like being buried alive when you shut the door. You couldn’t really offer much proof of your existence” (59). In only a couple of sentences, O’Neill manages to convey not only a description of the room, but how the room made Baby feel as well.
In spite of the childish-looking book cover, I don’t think children were O’Neill’s intended audience when she wrote this book. Even though the story is told through the eyes of a 12 year old girl, the subject matter is quite mature, dealing with themes of poverty and drugs. I believe that she is trying to send a message of the importance of being a good role model – the rehabilitation scene quoted earlier is enough to convince me of this. This leads me to believe that this novel was written towards young adults (Jules is 26 years old), with the goal of conveying this message.
The book cover is slightly deceiving. Retrieved from: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22207.Lullabies_for_Little_Criminal
I’ve had quite a bit of self-reflection while reading this novel. I’ve noticed that I have a habit of quickly skimming the descriptive parts of the text; those parts that may not be vital to the plot, but create imagery and add a lot to the reading experience. I’ve only noticed this weakness of mine during this novel because the descriptions have been so good that I find myself backtracking a few lines so that I can read the text again more carefully. I will definitely try to slow down my reading speed for the rest of this novel. Going even deeper than this, my feelings towards Jules have made me realize how intolerant I am towards people that set a bad example for younger children. I have always gotten very angry at people that said inappropriate things in front of my younger cousins, but this novel is the first thing that’s caused me to really reflect on this part of myself.
I’m really looking forward to reading the next part of this novel – the standard has been set very high after 110 pages!
O’Neill, Heather. Lullabies for Little Criminals: A Novel. New York: HarperCollins, 2006. Print.