The Headless Cupid

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The Headless Cupid
The Headless Cupid coverart.jpg
First edition (h/b)
Author Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Illustrator Alton Raible
Country United States
Language English
Genre Children's novel
Publisher Atheneum Books
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages 203
ISBN 0-689-20687-9
OCLC 12873557

The Headless Cupid is a children's novel by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. First published in 1971, the book was a Newbery Honor book for 1972.[1]


After his university professor father remarries, eleven-year-old David Stanley must make a series of new adjustments: first to his new stepmother, then to the strange old house in the country to which the family relocates, and finally to his new stepsister, twelve-year-old Amanda. Amanda is upset about her mother's divorce and remarriage, and about being forced to move away from the city and her best friend there. Amanda claims to be a practicing witch, and arrives at the Stanley home in a ceremonial costume, bringing books on the supernatural and a caged crow that she claims is her familiar. She offers to share her occult knowledge with David and his younger siblings Janie, Tesser, and Blair. David, while skeptical, goes along with the idea in order to get along with Amanda and protect his younger siblings. In contrast to Amanda's possibly staged "witchcraft", the Stanley children, particularly David and Blair, seem to have some actual psychic gifts, but do not talk about them.

The Stanleys' old house has an alleged past history of being inhabited by a destructive poltergeist, who caused rocks to fly through the house and beheaded a wooden cupid that is carved into the stairs. When David's father is away, the poltergeist suddenly becomes active and again begins to wreak havoc in the house. David suspects Amanda of causing the events, and he and Blair eventually catch her in the act. However, one night a box of rocks, along with the long-lost cupid's head, suddenly falls down the stairs, in an incident not caused by Amanda. A shaken Amanda confesses to having faked the previous poltergeist events and her other supposed occult encounters, and gives up her witchcraft. As David glues the cupid's head back on, he learns that four-year-old Blair dropped the box down the stairs. According to Blair, a ghost girl told him where to find the box containing the rocks and cupid's head, but he tripped carrying the heavy box and spilled out its contents. Blair does not remember anything else about the encounter, leaving David to wonder whether whether supernatural beings may be living in the Stanley home.

Literary significance & criticism[edit]

This book has made the American Library Association's list of the one hundred most frequently challenged books for 1990-2000, due to the use of witchcraft by the children.[2]

Preceded by
The Trumpet of the Swan
Joint winner of the
William Allen White Children's Book Award
with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Succeeded by