Book Review: The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Book Review: The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Title: The Headless Cupid
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Series: Stanley Family, Book 1
Publisher: Yearling
Paperback: 224 pages
Source: Chicago Public Library
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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When the four Stanley children meet Amanda, their new stepsister, they’re amazed to learn she studies witchcraft. When she shares her secrets, strange things start happening in their old house. They suspect Amanda until they learn the house was long ago haunted by a ghost that cut off the head of a wooden cupid on the stairway. A Newbery Honor Book.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I really wasn’t sure what I was getting into with this book. Was it a paranormal thing, was it a cute story about children learning how to live together as a mixed family? Each description spun it differently, so I started the book confused as to what I was supposed to think about it. This book centers on David, the oldest of the Stanley children. Amanda comes to live with them, and he finds her interesting. She studies the occult and witchcraft and takes the Stanley children as her apprentices, to teach them how to do spells and read the future. The thing is, they may have awakened a ghost with their activities.

I enjoyed this book; Snyder perfectly encapsulates a lot of what it is to be young. The tense friendship that David and Amanda strike is incredibly realistic; she resents her mother for re-marrying, but she also likes having friends and other people to entertain, so they have a somewhat “frenemy” vibe. I also absolutely loved how the magic-teaching was handled in this book. I have had seances and done spells at ten years old that could be a direct copy of what was done in this book, which was just perfect. However, this all provides a backdrop for exploring issues surrounding divorce and re-marriage: learning to live in a new place, accepting that your parents are no longer together, being a sibling to kids you haven’t met before, etc. Amanda is incredibly confused and hurt by her mother’s remarriage, so she works it out through these magical activities. This would be a great book to give to a fanciful child who’s having some issues dealing with a separation.

However, the story isn’t overly heavy and laden with emotional trauma. It’s fun and whimsical and has some great paranormal stuff going on with a possible haunting. I like that it toes the line between paranormal and realistic, not really leaning in either direction. This is well worth its Newbery Honor and I highly recommend it.

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