TTLG Author/Illustrator Profiles

Robert Cormier

Robert Cormier

Robert Cormier was born in 1925 in French Hill, a French-Canadian neighborhood of Leominster, Massachusetts, and has lived in Leominster all his life. The second of eight children, Robert enjoyed a happy childhood in the nest of his close-knit family and community. His family provided him a haven from the outer world. Cormier didn't fare well in the streets of his neighborhood, where ballplaying ability counted for more than his love of books. He attended St. Celia's Parochial Grammar School, where some of the nuns gave him a terrible time. When he was in eighth grade, he watched in horror from his classroom window as his own house caught fire and burned. His teacher refused to let him go to see if his family was safe until he had said the requisite prayers. This incident enraged him for years afterward.

One of the nuns, however, made a remark that changed the way he thought of himself. His seventh-grade teacher read one of his poems and told him that he was a writer. He believed her, and continued to think of himself as one. Later, a teacher at Fitchburg State College was so impressed with one of Cormier's stories that she submitted it to a magazine; it became his first published work.

After college, Cormier went on to write commercials for a local radio station, and soon switched to newspaper work. He was a writer and editor at the Fitchburg Sentinel for 23 years, where he won three major journalism awards. He later wrote short stories for popular magazines such as McCall's and the Saturday Evening Post. Cormier married in 1948, and despite his own childhood experiences, he and his wife sent their four children to local parochial schools.

Cormier's first three books were moderately successful, but in 1974 The Chocolate War launched him into the young adult market where he had tremendous success.