Cover image for Frenchtown summer
Frenchtown summer
Cormier, Robert.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Delacorte Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
113 pages ; 25 cm
A series of vignettes in free verse in which the writer reminisces about his life as a twelve-year-old boy living in a small town during the hot summer of 1938.
Reading Level:
1380 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.4 1.0 32206.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.5 5 Quiz: 21840 Guided reading level: NR.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
X Young Adult Fiction Young Adult

On Order



Eugene is remembering the summer of 1938 in Frenchtown, a time when he began to wonder "what I was doing here on the planet Earth." Here in vibrant, exquisite detail are his lovely mother, his aunts and uncles, cousins and friends, and especially his beloved, enigmatic father. Here, too, is the world of a mill town: the boys swimming in a brook that is red or purple or green, depending on the dyes dumped that day by the comb shop; the visit of the ice man; and the boys' trips to the cemetery or the forbidden railroad tracks. And here also is a darker world--the mystery of a girl murdered years before. Robert Cormier's touching, funny, melancholy chronicle of a vanished world celebrates a son's connection to his father and human relationships that are timeless. From the Paperback edition.

Author Notes

Robert Cormier began writing novels for adults, but established his reputation as an author of books for young adults, earning critical acclaim with three books, each of which were named New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year: The Chocolate War (1974), I Am the Cheese (1977), and After the First Dark (1979).

Cormier was born on January 17, 1925, in Leominster, Mass., where his eighth-grade teacher first discovered his ability to write. Cormier worked as a commercial writer at WTAG-Radio in Worcester, Mass. He also worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist at the Worcester Telegram and Gazette and at the Fitchburg Sentinel. Cormier received the Best Human Interest Story of the Year Award from the Associated Press of New England in 1959 and 1973. He also earned the Best Newspaper Column Award from K.R. Thomson Newspapers, Inc., in 1974.

Cormier, who is sometimes inspired by news stories or family events, is known for having serious themes in his work, such as manipulation, abuse of authority, and the ordinariness of evil. These themes are also evident in many of his more than 15 books.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Gr. 7^-12. It is the summer of 12-year-old Eugene's first paper route, a job that sends him on "Sahara afternoons" through "the tenement canyons of Frenchtown," an unseen observer of other lives and a searcher for his own identity. Because he's a reader, he isn't "famous in the schoolyard" like his athletic brother, Raymond. And so, unnoticed, he is free to observe the world around him--a near suicide, the death of a classmate, his father at night. He falls in love with a visiting nun, pretends to ride the rails, and gets his first pair of glasses. Cormier narrates Eugene's discoveries in free verse, which is lyrical, evocative, and masterful in its capacity to reveal the hidden emotional truths of interior lives. "I walked," Eugene muses, "not knowing yet that the deep emptiness inside me was loneliness." Like Sherwood Anderson or Edwin Arlington Robinson, Cormier finds the universal in the small, sometimes mysterious moments of unsung lives. But Eugene's summer is full, too, of larger "unanswered questions and mysteries": the long-ago murder of a young woman, the inexplicable tragedy that befalls a favorite uncle, and--the greatest mystery of all--the man who is Eugene's own silent father. Because Cormier is so successful at conveying Eugene's desperate longing for his distant father's approval and love, his father's ultimate validation, when it arrives, is deeply satisfying. Heartbreak becomes heart ease, as Cormier continues to demonstrate his unrivalled power to dazzle and delight his readers. --Michael Cart

Publisher's Weekly Review

More wistful but equally as haunting as Cormier's usual fare, this novel in verse shapes an impressionistic portrait of a lonely, keenly observant boy living in post-WWI Frenchtown (also the setting for the novel Fade). Twelve-year-old Eugene finds his father enigmatic and distant: "My father was a silhouette,/ as if obscured/ by a light shining behind him./ He was closer to me waving from the street/ than nearby in the tenement/ or walking beside me." While hoping for some sign of paternal love or approval, Eugene quietly and contemplatively penetrates the secrets of Frenchtown. He watches as Mrs. Cartin contemplates taking a leap from the third-floor, stands by as a one-time friend becomes an outcast after a bout with St. Vitus' dance and connects his favorite uncle to an unsolved murder case. Every observation implies mystery and hidden dramas; while the short verse chapters seem less plot-driven than Cormier fans may expect, they subtly convey the shadows in Frenchtown and the action those shadows conceal. Feeling "as transparent as rain," Eugene is a ghostly presence here, taking readers back in time and slowly mesmerizing them with his memories of coming of age. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-In taut verse, Eugene provides verbal snapshots of his town, the enigmatic adults around him, and his own growing sense of self. A lyrical tour de force that packs an emotional wallop. (Sept.) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up-Frenchtown Summer (Delacorte, 1999), set just after World War I in Monument, MA, is Robert Cormier's somewhat autobiographical, coming-of-age novel in verse. The short chapters become snapshots which together form a portrait of one summer in the life of Eugene, a sensitive boy. Actor Rene Auberjonois reads the poems in his resonant, expressive voice. His gentle voice is so steady and even that listeners may not even realize that they listening to verse. With pauses and changes in tones, Auberjonois adds touches of mystery or excitement when needed, but mostly he is careful to let Cormier's words speak for themselves. The second tape is an interview between Cormier and historian Leonard S. Marcus in which they discuss the background to the novel, the numerous autobiographical elements it contains, and Cormier's style and methods. Cormier's speech with its soft r's betrays his New England heritage and provides a nice change from the book itself.-Claudia Moore, W.T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Doorway Shadows That summer in Frenchtown in the days when I knew my name but did not know who I was, we lived on the second floor of the three-decker on Fourth Street. From the piazza late in the afternoon I watched for my father, waiting for him to come home from the Monument Comb Shop. No matter how tired he was, his step was quick. He'd always look up, expecting to see me, and that's why I was there, not wanting to disappoint him or myself. That was the summer of my first paper route, and I walked the tenement canyons of Frenchtown delivering The Monument Times, dodging bullies and dogs, wondering what I was doing here on the planet Earth, not knowing yet that the deep emptiness inside me was loneliness. I felt like a ghost on Mechanic Street, transparent as rain, until the growling of Mr. Mellier's dog restored my flesh and blood and hurried me on my way. I was always glad to arrive home, where my mother, who looked like a movie star, welcomed me with a kiss and a hug. My mother filled the tenement with smells, cakes in the oven, hot donuts in bubbling oil, and hamburg laced with onions sizzling in the black pan she called the Spider. She loved books, lilac cologne, and me. My mother was vibrant, a wind chime, but my father was a silhouette, as if obscured by a light shining behind him. He was closer to me waving from the street than nearby in the tenement or walking beside me. On summer Saturdays, the men gathered at the Happy Times bar or in Rouleau's Barber Shop and talked about the Boston Red Sox and the prospects of a layoff at the Monument Comb Shop while my brother, Raymond, swapped baseball cards in Pee Alley with his best friend, Alyre Tournier. I stood beside my father as he listened to what the men were saying, smoking his Chesterfields, and I wished I could be like him, mysterious, silent. I was not famous in the schoolyard, or on the street corners, content to cheer for Raymond, who was a star at everything, baseball at Cartier's Field, Buck Buck How Many Fingers Up? in the schoolyard, while I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or A Study in Scarlet on the piazza, avoiding the possibility of dropping a fly ball in center field. My paper route took me from the green three-decker next to the Boston & Maine railroad tracks where downtown Monument met Frenchtown, along Mechanic and all the numbered streets from First to Twelfth. My last customer was Mr. Lottier at the end of Mechanic Street next to the sewer beds. I held my nose as I tossed the paper to his piazza. He always smiled when he paid me on Friday, as if his nose didn't work. That summer, Frenchtown was a place of Sahara afternoons, shadows in doorways, lingering evenings, full of unanswered questions and mysteries. It was also the summer of my twelfth birthday, the summer of Sister Angela and Marielle LeMoyne (even though she was dead) And my brother, Raymond, and all the others, but especially my uncle Med and my father. And finally it was the summer of the airplane. Excerpted from Frenchtown Summer by Robert Cormier All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.