Book Review: Lullabies for Little Criminals

I'm just fininishing the book Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill, which I highly recommend. It reminds me a bit of White Oleander by Janet Fitch in subject matter. Both books follow a neglected and abused child through the process of survival.

Lullabies is more sophisticated, but less lyrical. It is wittily poignant whereas Oleander is dolorously beautiful and dripping with angst. Lullabies conveys the mystical depth of a child's visual imagination, whereas Oleander's beauty is more verbally poetic.

Oleander strives for sophistication but ends up being overwrought. Lullabies sophistication is a natural offshoot of its simplicity.

O'Neill has an amazing gift for story telling, creative turns of phrase, and depth of insight into the heart of a child.

Go out and get it. You won't be sorry.


  1. What stuck with me most about White Oleander was the hidden world of Los Angeles, not a glamorous place, but a place of wire fencing on the front of (non-grassy) yards, crews of people picking up remnants of appliances on garbage day, abusive tyrants who put locks on the refrigerator as they are "fostering" young people.

  2. Apologies that I didn't find your comment until now! I didn't have email notification set up.

    Good point about the inside view of LA. Definitely not a glamorous portrait.

    White Oleander has much to be admired. The central character is very real, and the character development in general is great. I thought the scenes set in the trailer with the man who becomes her first lover were also very powerful.

    I wonder what proportion of foster situations are as bad as those described in the book?

  3. In the book there were well meaning foster parents too, but the one thing that didn't change was an unstable life.


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