Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
How do Robert Cormier’s adult novels differ thematically or stylistically from his young adult fiction?
What effect does setting have on the themes of Cormier’s fiction?
Compare the way Cormier presents his characters to the methods used by one or more other young adult writers.
Compare the ways Cormier presents institutions in two of his novels.
Cormier’s novels have frequently been the targets of censorship. What qualities in his fiction attract such controversy?
Does Cormier’s view of conformity vary from novel to novel?
Why is it necessary for The Chocolate War to be told from several points of view?
Why is Adam’s fate left unresolved at the end of I Am the Cheese?
Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
As a working journalist from 1946 to 2000, Robert Cormier prepared radio commercials and wrote columns and articles for periodicals and newspapers, including Redbook, McCall’s, The Saturday Evening Post, Catholic Library World, and the Fitchburg Sentinel. He was a writing consultant, wire editor, associate editor, columnist, book reviewer, contributor to anthologies, and freelancer, a job list that suggests the range of his literary work. He published three novels for adults—Now and at the Hour, A Little Raw on Monday Mornings, and Take Me Where the Good Times Are—before writing The Chocolate War, the first of his thirteen young adult novels. Another young adult novel, Fade (1988), was his only mystical work.
Eight Plus One (1980) features Cormier’s short stories. Other Bells for Us to Ring (1990) is his only book for children, and his young adult novel Frenchtown Summer (1999) uses free verse for narration. His autobiography, I Have Words to Spend: Reflections of a Small Town Editor (1991), is a compilation of his newspaper columns. His wife, Constance Senay Cormier, helped edit the book. Cormier left two unpublished novels, “The Rumple Country” and “In the Midst of Winter,” upon his death in 2000.
Achievements (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Robert Cormier’s many journalistic awards include the Human Interest Story of the Year Award from the Associated Press in New England (1959, 1973). His young adult books in particular have earned many accolades, including The New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year Award for The Chocolate War, I Am the Cheese, and After the First Death. In 1977, I Am the Cheese was named the American Library Association’s (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults. Both the School Library Journal and the ALA listed The Bumblebee Flies Anyway as a best book for 1983. He also received the ALAN Award (1982) from the National Council of Teachers of English for lifetime achievement in young adult literature.
In addition to more than thirty other honors, Cormier accepted the German Catholic Book of the Year, Bishops of Germany Award for Tunes for Bears to Dance To, the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award for The Chocolate War, and an honorary doctorate from Fitchburg State College (1977). Translations of Cormier’s works appear in French, Spanish, Italian, Swedish, Japanese, Danish, Hungarian, German, and other languages.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Campbell, Patricia J. Presenting Robert Cormier. Boston: Twayne, 1985. Campbell provides biographical information, examines how Cormier’s life relates to his novels, and critically analyzes chosen titles. An extensive bibliography is included.
Cormier, Robert. “An Interview with Robert Cormier.” Interview by Anita Silvey. Horn Book 61, no. 2 (March/April, 1985): 145-155. Cormier shares his motivations and thoughts relating to his writing a sequel to The Chocolate War.
Cormier, Robert. “Kind of a Funny Dichotomy: A Conversation with Robert Cormier.” Interview by Roger Sutton. School Library Journal 37, no. 6 (June, 1991): 28-33. Cormier describes his adolescence and writing process.
Keeley, Jennifer. Understanding “I Am the Cheese.” San Diego, Calif.: Lucent, 2001. Chapter 1 recounts the life of Cormier. A chronology and an annotated bibliography are included.