Author Biography: Robert Cormier is a former journalist and the author of many acclaimed books for young adults. His books have been translated into many languages and have constantly appeared on the Best Books for Young Adults lists of the American Library Association. The New York Times, and School Library Journal. He is the winner of the 1991 Margaret A. Edwards Award for The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and After the First Death. His most recent novel for Delacorte Press is Tenderness.
Robert Cormier is the author of many award-winning and controversial books for young adults, including The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and most recently, Tenderness.
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|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
A newspaper reporter and columnist for 30 years (working for the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and the Fitchburg Sentinel), Cormier was often inspired by news stories. What makes his works unique is his ability to make evil behavior understandable, though, of course, still evil. “I’m very much interested in intimidation,” he told an interviewer from School Library Journal. “And the way people manipulate other people. And the obvious abuse of authority.” All of these themes are evident in his young adult classic and best-known book, The Chocolate War. A 15-year-old fan of his said, “You always write from inside the person.”
Cormier traveled the world, from Australia (where he felt particularly thrilled by putting his hand in the Indian Ocean) and New Zealand to most of the countries in Europe, speaking at schools, colleges, and universities and to teacher and librarian associations. He visited nearly every state in the nation. While Cormier loved to travel, he said many times that he also loved returning to his home in Leominster.
Cormier was a practicing Catholic and attended parochial school, where in seventh grade, one of his teachers discovered his ability to write. But he said he had always wanted to be a writer: “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t trying to get something down on paper.” His first poems were published in the Leominster Daily Enterprise, and his first professional publication occurred while he was a freshman at Fitchburg State College. His professor, Florence Conlon, sent his short story, without his knowledge, to The Sign, a national Catholic magazine. The story, titled “The Little Things That Count,” sold for $75.
Cormier’s first work as a writer was at radio station WTAG in Worcester, MA, where he wrote scripts and commercials from 1946 to 1948. In 1948, he began his award-winning career as a newspaperman with the Worcester Telegram, first in its Leominster office and later in its Fitchburg office. He wrote a weekly human-interest column, “A Story from the Country,” for that newspaper.
In 1955, Cormier joined the staff of the Fitchburg Sentinel, which later became the Fitchburg-Leominster Sentinel and Enterprise, as the city hall and political reporter. He later served as wire and associate editor and wrote a popular twice-weekly column under the pseudonym John Fitch IV. The column received the national K.R. Thomason Award in 1974 as the best human-interest column written that year. That same year, he was honored by the New England Associated Press Association for having written the best news story under pressure of deadline. He left newspaper work in 1978 to devote all his time to writing.
Robert Cormier’s first novel, Now and at the Hour, was published in 1960. Inspired by his father’s death, the novel drew critical acclaim and was featured by Time magazine for five weeks on its “Recommended Reading” list. It was followed in 1963 by A Little Raw on Monday Mornings and in 1965 by Take Me Where the Good Times Are, also critically acclaimed. The author was hailed by the Newark Advocate as being “in the first rank of American Catholic novelists.”
In 1974, Cormier published The Chocolate War, the novel that is still a bestseller a quarter century after its publication. Instantly acclaimed, it was also the object of censorship attempts because of its uncompromising realism. In a front-page review in a special children’s issue of The New York Times Book Review, it was described as “masterfully structured and rich in theme,” and it went on to win countless awards and honors, was taught in schools and colleges throughout the world, and was translated into more than a dozen languages. I Am the Cheese followed in 1977 and After the First Death in 1979.
These three books established Cormier as a master of the young adult novel. In 1991, the Young Adult Services Division of the American Library Association presented him with the Margaret A. Edwards Award, citing the trio of books as “brilliantly crafted and troubling novels that have achieved the status of classics in young adult literature.”
In 1982, Cormier was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and its Adolescent Literature Assembly (ALAN) for his “significant contribution to the field of adolescent literature” and for his “innovative creativity.”
8 Plus 1, an anthology of short stories that have appeared in such publications as the Saturday Evening Post, The Sign, and Redbook, was published in 1980. In later years, many of the stories in the collection, notably “The Moustache,” “President Cleveland, Where Are You?” and “Mine on Thursdays,” appeared in anthologies and school textbooks. The collection also received the World of Reading Readers’ Choice Award, sponsored by Silver Burdett & Ginn, especially notable because young readers voted for Cormier to receive the prize.
I Have Words to Spend, a collection of his newspaper and magazine columns, was published in 1991, assembled and edited by his wife, Connie.
Robert Cormier’s other novels include The Bumblebee Flies Anyway, 1983; Beyond the Chocolate War, 1985; Fade, 1988; Other Bells for Us to Ring, 1990; We All Fall Down, 1991; Tunes for Bears to Dance To, 1992; In the Middle of the Night, 1995; Tenderness, 1997; Heroes, 1998; and Frenchtown Summer, 1999. This novel won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction in April 2000. All his novels have won critical praise and honors.
In the Middle of the Night and Tenderness were short-listed for the Carnegie Medal in England, and Heroes received a “Highly Commended” citation for that same award, unique honors because the Carnegie is traditionally awarded to a British book.
Cormier's novels have frequently come under attack by censorship groups because they are uncompromising in their depictions of the problems young people face each day in a turbulent world. Teachers and librarians have been quick to point out that his novels are eminently teachable, valuable, and moral. His novels are taught in hundreds of schools and in adolescent literature courses in colleges and universities.
Though many of his books are described as written for young adults, in fact people of all ages read and enjoy Cormier’s work. His themes of the ordinariness of evil and what happens when good people stand by and do nothing are treated seriously, and he never provides the easy comfort of a happy ending. Cormier’s gripping stories explore some of the darker corners of the human psyche, but always with a moral focus and a probing intelligence that compel readers to examine their own feelings and ethical beliefs.
In an interview last year, Cormier was asked if he had accomplished what he set out to do at the beginning of his writing career. He answered with characteristic humility: “Oh, yes. My dream was to be known as a writer and to be able to produce at least one book that would be read by people. That dream came true with the publication of my first novel–and all the rest has been a sweet bonus. All I’ve ever wanted to do, really, was to write.” That writing has left the world a legacy of wonderful books, a body of work that will endure.
Date of Birth:January 17, 1925
Date of Death:November 2, 2000
Place of Birth:Leominster, Massachusetts
Place of Death:Leominster, Massachusetts
Education:Fitchburg State College
Read an Excerpt
an excerpt from Heroes
My name is Francis Joseph Cassavant and I have just returned to Frenchtown
in Monument and the war is over and I have no face.
Oh, I have eyes because I can see and eardrums because I can hear but
no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh. But that's fine, like
Dr. Abrams says, because it's sight and hearing that count and I was not
handsome to begin with. He was joking, of course. He was always trying
to make me laugh.
If anything bothers me, it's my nose. Or rather, the absence of my nose.
My nostrils are like two small caves and they sometimes get blocked and
I have to breathe through my mouth. This dries up my throat and makes
it hard for me to swallow. I also become hoarse and cough a lot. My teeth
are gone but my jaw is intact and my gums are firm, which makes it possible
for me to wear dentures. In the past few weeks my gums began to shrink,
however, and the dentures have become loose and they click when I talk
and slip around inside my mouth.
I have no eyebrows, but eyebrows are minor, really. I do have cheeks.
Sort of. I mean, the skin that forms my cheeks was grafted from my thighs
and has taken a long time to heal. My thighs sting when my pants rub against
them. Dr. Abrams says that all my skin will heal in time and my cheeks
will someday be as smooth as a baby's arse. That's the way he pronounced
it: arse. In the meantime, he said, don't expect anybody to selectyou
for a dance when it's Girl's Choice at the canteen.
Don't take him wrong, please.
He has a great sense of humor and has been trying to get me to develop
I have been trying to do just that.
But not having much success.
Reading Group Guide
1. The title of this novel could be meant ironically. In other words, this may be a book about “heroes” who are not true heroes. How many examples of such non-heroes do you see in the book?
2. The book begins with Francis’s shocking statement that he “has no face.” In the context of the story, what are other metaphorical expressions about “face” that are relevant? How do these apply to Francis?
3. What is your definition of a hero? Francis feels that he is “a fake.” When he threw himself on the grenade it was not to save his comrades but to end his own life. Is a heroic act still heroic even if it’s done for the wrong reasons?
4. Francis says about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, “We had discovered in one moment on a Sunday afternoon that the world was not a safe place anymore.” (p. 79) What was the significance of that event for America? What happened as a result?
5. Forgiveness is a major theme in many of Cormier’s novels. Trace how each of the three main characters forgive and are forgiven, and how they are affected when forgiveness is withheld and when it is granted. Which is harder–to forgive someone else or yourself?
Before the live bn.com chat, Robert Cormier agreed to answer some of our questions:Q: Your books are often much more darkly honest than many novels written for a YA audience. What draws you to write such deeply psychological tales? Is there a line beyond which subject matter is too serious or dark for a young adult audience?
A: I am drawn to dark themes because I am sent to the typewriter by things that affect me emotionally, that disturb me, upset me, haunt me. They may be personal or something, say, I've read in the newspaper. I think that no theme should be taboo in young adult books -- if properly handled. By properly, I don't mean prettified or toned-down but honest, true, and moral.
Q: What inspired you to write about World War II now? Was there an event in particular that got you thinking about this story?
A: Heroes was inspired by the 50th anniversary of D-Day, when newspapers and television brought back the events of that memorable day. I was not involved, but people I knew here in my hometown were. Some came forth after half a century and talked about it. I had also visited the Normandy beaches recently and was overwhelmed by the echoes of what happened that day.
Q: Have you seen the new Steven Spielberg film, "Saving Private Ryan"? What do you think of his portrayal of World War II?
A: I've seen "Saving Private Ryan." It is without a doubt the most honest portrayal of the D-Day landing ever filmed for the public. It haunted me for days afterward.
Q: Although it's clear that you haven't had the same experience as your main character, how much, if any, of Heroes reflects your own experience? Is the character of Francis based on a real person?
A: As to Heroes, Francis returned from the war is entirely fictional. Francis before the war, at the Wreck Center, is somewhat of a self-portrait (Ping-Pong is the only sport I've been good at!). What I tried to do was to show ordinary young men performing heroic acts without knowing they were being heroic.
Q: Go to your nearest window and describe for us what you see.
A: Because my wife, Connie, and I, are at our summer place, my window looks out over a placid pond with an island almost in the middle of it, tall pines guarding the waters, on which only small boats and canoes are allowed. The peaked roofs of two cottages emerge from smaller trees across the way. Some lily pads give what I like to think is a touch of Monet to the pond. I sometimes see a blue heron in shallow water near the opposite shore, but that spot is vacant and kind of lonely today.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just before my English class ended for the semester my English teacher had us read this book. I wasn't expecting to like it because I don't generally like stuff I have to read for school. I loved it! It was a very well written book.
This book takes place during the time of World War II. Francis Cassavant is a young boy (early teens) who is in love with a young girl, Nicole Renard. After a town hero (and war hero), Larry LaSalle comes back home, Francis witnesses the unthinkable act Larry does to Nicole. He joins the military, hoping to be killed in war, but instead gets his face blown off by a grenade and is sent back home a hero. Francis¿ only goal is to find and kill Larry LaSalle and then end his own life. In the end, Larry kills himself, Francis talks with Nicole one last time, and he is considering to write a book one day.I did not like this book at all. There was no suspense or excitement really. And the end was not satisfying. I think Larry should have been found out publicly to even further kill his ¿good¿ name before committing suicide. And something about the healing of Francis¿ face after cosmetic surgery or anything definite about his future would have helped the ending have a better closure. It was dull and depressing to me. There just wasn¿t any justice served for the cruel acts Larry committed¿not satisfied at all!Two extensions?! How am I going to come up with two extensions for a book I wouldn¿t even use in my classroom? I guess an easy one would be to have the students research World War II and compare what they find with how the guys acted when they returned from war and provide an explanation for that behavior. Another extension could be to write a paper about what they believe has a more powerful effect on people: love or war.
I finished this book in about an hour. It wasn't much. It's an okay story, the author could have developed a little more. I could say that it is of literary value and a student should read it. In class we had read the first two chapters and practically the whole class got interested. I mean a man without a face, that's pretty cool. I waited a long time to finally read it, but then I realized that I definitely did not need to spend seven bucks on this book. But either way I guess it was worth it because now I wish that there was a sequel.
Heroes is a story told by Francis Cassavant. The novelist Robert Cormier writes this tale starting when Francis was eighteen and he already fought in a war and lost his face. He lost most of his face when he landed on a grenade to save his own soldiers. He was awarded a Silver Star of Bravery and was called a hero for doing so. His face was so horrible he kept it covered with a white scarf. He had no nose, just holes that he called ¿his caves¿. He also felt he had one last mission when he returned to his small hometown of Frenchtown. To kill Larry LaSalle, his childhood idle. Francis thinks Larry ruined his life. As a result, Francis lost his first true love, Nicole Renords. When he met her for the first time in seventh grade he described her as: ¿the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.¿ As the story unfolds, you will find yourself asking who is Larry and why must he die. While Francis waits to find Larry, he thinks about everything in the past that got him to this point. This leaves the reader to wonder who the hero really is. Francis is tortured not only by his pain from his scarred face but also by his memories from his past. Before the war Francis knew Larry LaSalle as someone who helped him and other kids feel good about themselves. Larry ran the local recreation center, which later was always referred to, as the Wreck Center. During this time, he also met his true love, Nicole Renords. Life was good but that happiness soon ended. Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and this starts the war for the country. Francis remembers feeling so proud of Larry for signing up for war until the night before he is to leave, the unbelievable happens. What happens that night with Larry and Nicole will haunt him forever. Francis feels like dying so he ends up joining the war and hoping he will not return. What could be so bad? Now both heroes are back in town and Nicole is still missing. When Francis finds Larry face to face what will happen? Does he complete his last mission? Will Francis ever find Nicole? You must read the book to find out. Heroes kept me turning page after page just to see what happens next. The shocking surprises all throughout the book keeps your eyes glued to the book until the end. The ending leaves you wanting more which makes you have to think on your own about what you think happens next. It read like a good mystery and came together like a puzzle. It was easy to put yourself in the place of the characters and feel what they were feeling. I would recommend this book.
Don't be fooled by the title theres no super heroes in it. This book is about a war veteran named Francis who is going to kill his childhood hero who attacked his freind. I liked this book because it flashbacks to his childhood you find out how he grew up while he is trying to kill him. And the anwsers to all your questions are slowly revealed. This book has action and mystery. Will Francis get revenge? Read the book and find out!
The beginning really grabbed me and kept me into the whole thing. It made me see his torn face throughout the book and gave me a sympothy for Francis. Cormier had me feel Francis' anger towards LaSalle after what he did to his girlfriend Nicole. Heroes is a tradgic tale that kept me wanting to read more.
I think that this book was a pretty darn good book. It is about a man who went to the war and later got his face blown off. He then starts to look for the man who about took his life away...Larry LaSalle. Later in the book he finds Larry, only to not kill him. I found this to be very awkward. Thinking through the whole book that he was going to kill the man that almost took his life away. I felt sorry for this man, even though it isn't based on a true story, I now know what it would be like walking the streets by yourself and people not knowing who you are because you have to wear a ball cap and a towel over your face.
it was a good book considering some war books it was sad, romantic, and the ending makes u think a essential question find out if u read it i read this book in my class i liked it
I thought this book was great. It covered so many different aspects that could be identified with the target age. The suspense and cliff-hangers that Cormier intends are great. From the first page when the reader is given all this information on francis and his face... it leaves you wanting more and by the time you know it you've read the whole book. I wish there was a mini drama or film which could show the real true heroes.
Heroes, by Robert Cormeir, is a wonderful book. I would stay up most of the night reading it. I think that it had a lot of feelings in it, how Francis had to live his life as a stranger because his face was blown off by a grenade. This book is probably one of the most interesting ones that I've read in a while. It is so sad what happens to Francis's girlfriend, Nicole, and how one night can change the rest of your life. If anyone is looking for a great book to read, read this one.
I really enjoyed reading Heros. Though I thought it wasn't one of Cormiers best novels it was still a great Psycological Thriller. Short and Sweet. Good read for young adults.
This book is the greatest and most discriptive narrative writing I have ever read!!! I give this two thumbs up!!!
Heros is a fictional book written by Robert Cormier. Francis Cassavant tells his life's story. Larry LaSalle is his boyhood mentor and hero. Through Larry LaSalle Francis is able to gain confidence and self esteem. Nicole is a young woman Francis falls in love with. Larry LaSalle betrays Francis' friendship, and Francis belames himself for Larry's harms. As a result of his guilt Francis looses his newfound self esteem. He enters the Army in World War II to get himself killed. He slowly regains his self esteem after a serious war injury and an attempt to even the score with Larry LaSalle. In the end, Francis finally learns that he is his own hero. He then begins to rebuild his life. Heroes is an interesting and enjoyable story. Robert Cormier does an excellent job describing the tension and anxiety of a young man trying to fit in and be liked. Francis' feelings toward Nicole also realistically portray human emotions. A reader can very much relate to the story. I highly recommend the book.
This book is really good. I read this for an 8th grade Lit. project, and I never put it down.
I really enjoyed this book, I chose to read this book for a 'book talk' in my english class because it was short. Well a huge story was crammed into this small book, and it was a thorough, exciting, suspense filled story as well. I am looking into reading more books by him for more 'book talks'.
Heroes was a great!! If you like to read books that have problems that u dont know what is going to happen next then u should read this book. There are many kinds of views displayed in 'Heroes'. Robert Cormier, has very good discriptions in the story with a persons feelings, emotions, actions, and reactions. I choose Robert Cormier book 'Heroes' because if has a good sence of direction toward life today.
Heroes by Robert Cormier This was a very good book, and I really liked it. And I sujest that if you have a chance to read this book you should. I don¿t want to tell you the whole book so im going to just tell you that its about a guy who went to war and when he comes back from war he wants to kill the person that sent him to war.
yeah right.. good book, my arse!!!