The Headless Cupid
by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The author of Gib and the Gray Ghost
also wrote three Newbery Honor Books, and this is one of them. It is a spooky and at the same
time moving story about five children, a spooky old house, and a poltergeist.
Nowadays, many of us can understand the way Amanda feels. I know Ive been there. Her parents are divorced and live on opposite sides of the
country. Her mother just married a guy with four kids and moved to a rustic house in the countryside. She has to leave her friends behind,
start over in a new school, and put up with four younger siblings for the first time in her life. She would rather live with her father, who
lets her do whatever she wants, but she is hurt that he doesnt want her around. So, she is understandably angry.
Nevertheless, David doesnt understand Amanda. David is the oldest of the Stanley children. Since his mother died, he has shouldered a lot
of responsibility for the younger kids: loud, impulsive Janey; plain-spoken, inquisitive, four-year-old Esther; and Esthers strange, quiet
twin brother, Blair. He is closer in age to Amanda than the others, so they should be friends. But he is too busy holding the family
together, and she is too busy trying to tear it apart in a fit of pre-teen rebellion.
Amandas rebellion takes the form of an interest in all things occult. Black magic, witchcraft, ghosts, you name it, shes into it. David
and the other kids go along with Amandas offer to induct them into the mysteries of the occult, because they think something interesting
will happen. But, eventually, David starts to wonder whether the occult is just something Amanda uses to disrupt the household. Then, a
visiting repairman tells the children that the house used to be haunted by a poltergeist, and soon strange things start happening again.
David starts to wonder whether Amanda is causing these things to happen, too, as a way of getting back at her mother.
Here is a creepy mystery that doesnt turn out to be as disappointingly simple as many stories of this type. Plus, it is filled with humor,
family drama, realistic characters and their complicated relationships. It goes without saying that a big fat occult content advisory is
in order, as the story unashamedly explores the interest some children take in the occult and the way they imagine it.
In defense of the story, against anyone who would thoughtlessly condemn this book because of this content, I would point out that the
witchcraft portrayed in this book is an angry girls way of striking out at everyone...for everything. The real magic of this story
comes in the way David, Janie, Tesser, and Blair show Amanda the meaning of love and the possibility of happiness, even in a family whose
members dont always do what you want them to do.
Recommended Age: 12+
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