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The Headless Cupid (1971)

by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Stanley Family (1)

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1,0792318,820 (3.7)43
Life is never quite the same again for eleven-year-old David after the arrival of his new stepsister, a student of the occult.
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» See also 43 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
This is a ghost story and a character study of an adolescent girl (she's 12) acting all sullen and teenager-y. We see her through the eyes of her younger (he's 11) step-brother who is far more earnest, considerate, and mature. Amanda is what we would now call goth. She missed it by 20 years, but she would've been very into The Craft. When her parents divorce and she's forced to live with her mom's new husband and family, she is clearly unhappy but takes the opportunity to try to induct her new siblings into the occult. There is someone in the family who may have actual supernatural powers, but it's not Amanda.

One very cringe thing that happens in this book is that Amanda gets her little step-siblings to do what she wants by playing "slave and slavedriver." She plays at whipping them to get them do the gardening. Shudder.

Amanda is not the only interesting character in the book. Janie the talkative, dramatic 6yo is a hoot. The 4yo twins Blair and Tesser each have distinct personalities. The grown-ups feel quite real and nuanced. David, the POV character, is exactly what parents want their kids to be without being too good to be true. He observes Amanda carefully and her character is revealed through his observations.

I read this because Lemony Snicket praised it in [b:Poison for Breakfast|56769614|Poison for Breakfast|Lemony Snicket|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1613788183l/56769614._SY75_.jpg|59679665]. ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
Average story of a newly-blended family and the baggage one of the children brings to the mix. Not sure why this was a Newbery honor book, unless the occult practices described throughout was considered edgy for its time and deserving of the award. ( )
  fuzzi | Mar 17, 2022 |
One of my favorite books when I was younger, any fan of ghost stories or paranormal mysteries should really enjoy this.

David Stanley tries his hardest to play the ultimate big brother to his three very different young siblings. With their mother dead, and their father often away working and preparing for remarriage, he is the one they look up to. But David is about to have problems of his own, arriving in the form of his new stepsister, Amanda. And Amanda brings more than the usual problems. She is a self-styled practicer of the occult, and she brings with her a grumpy crow familiar, books of spells, and somewhat of an attitude.

Before long, David's three irrepressible siblings; mischievous know-it-all Janie, innocent Esther, and quiet, mysterious Blair, have convinced Amanda to give them a chance to get in on her world, despite her reluctance. David is pulled along too, fascinated in spite of himself by Amanda's interests. But when strange things begin to happen in David's old house, the four Stanley siblings, plus Amanda, may find themselves with a true ghost on their hands. And maybe none of them will be prepared to deal with it.

Sprinkled with hilarity and fun that take the worst of the creepiness out of this spooky novel (the siblings' attempts to pass Amanda's rites, as well as "capture" lizard familiars and hold a seance, have lots of funny moments), this is a perfect introduction to anyone who wants to try a ghost story. Under that, it's also the story of a family learning about each other. But the ending, which has a not-necessarily surprising twist, has a double twist that leaves everything up in the air...a perfect ending for a study of the paranormal. ( )
  booksong | Mar 18, 2020 |
This was a brilliant re-read ~ I'd forgotten what an engrossing story The Headless Cupid is. My most admired passages are about David's view (and care) of his siblings and how well the author can convey the sad despair and anger of a child (Amanda) passed from one parent to the other in a divorce. My favourite character is Blair. And I love how the story ends. It was delicately achieved without being predictably clichéd or sentimental. ( )
  SandyAMcPherson | Feb 20, 2019 |
David and his three younger siblings move into an old and mysterious house with their dad, new stepmom and her peculiar daughter, Amanda, who is twelve to David's eleven. Amanda is interested-slash-borderline-obsessed with everything occult, to the point that she moves in along with a crow, a toad and a snake despite the fact that the crow treats her viciously and she's afraid of reptiles. She quickly establishes herself as the leader and pulls David and the little ones into an elaborate series of initiation rites. David begins to sense that her strange behavior is less about witchcraft and more to do with all the recent changes in her life. When they learn that there may have been a poltergeist in the old house long ago, however, things start happening and David works to solve all sorts of mysteries.
An interesting story and a fun read that pulls you in and keeps you page-turning. David's character is immediately likable, and Amanda and the rest of the kiddos are completely believable and easy to root for. ( )
  electrascaife | Feb 23, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Zilpha Keatley Snyderprimary authorall editionscalculated
Raible, AltonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Larry again, and moreover
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David often wondered about how he happened to be sitting there on the stair landing, within arm's reach of the headless cupid, at the very moment when his stepmother left Westerly House to bring Amanda home.
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Life is never quite the same again for eleven-year-old David after the arrival of his new stepsister, a student of the occult.

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