Okay, first things first. I was a HUGE fan of Zilpha Keatley Snyder when I was growing up. I read (and re-read) stand-alone stories like The Velvet Room, The Egypt Game, and The Witches of Worm. I was also a fan of books in the Stanley Family series like The Headless Cupid and The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case. Even though The Headless Cupid is an older book, I think that it aged very well. It combines the timeless topic of family problems, specifically the challenge of blended families, with a creepy touch of the supernatural. Is Amanda really a witch? Is the house really haunted?
Several years ago I needed to write some booktalks for 5th and 6th grade classes, so I perused the shelves of my children’s room to get some ideas. While I was primarily looking for newer titles, I was also keeping my eyes open for books that I’d already read which I could share with new audiences. When I found The Headless Cupid on the shelf, I remembered how much I’d loved this book when I was a kid. I remembered that I liked the way the siblings interacted with each other and how they were understandably suspicious of this new outsider. And I also thought that kids would be captivated by the supernatural side of the story.
It’s always hard moving into a new house, getting along with a new stepmother and making room in your family for a new sister. It’s even harder when your new sister hardly talks, never smiles, and brings magic books, a crow, a snake, and a toad. You see, Amanda believes in the supernatural and she studies witchcraft. The Stanley kids don’t know what to do about her – on the one hand they’re afraid of her, but on the other hand they think she’s fascinating. Pretty soon, Amanda is giving the kids witchcraft lessons, and things start getting out of hand. But even Amanda is in for a big surprise. Because while she always likes to be in charge of the magic, she’s about to realize that this old house has a few secrets of its own.