Friday, August 29, 2014

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: August 2014

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the tomes they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: The Headless Cupid
Author: Zilpha Keatley Snyder
via Wikipedia
I believe I was in the third grade the first time The Headless Cupid was read to me.  The book was my introduction to the world of dark magic, expanding my vocabulary with words like occult, familiar and seance.  While I've always remembered the story fondly, I'd forgotten most of the details so it was high time for a re-read.

Snyder's award-winning book is about many things, but mostly it's about the joining of two families and the inherent obstacles people face in that situation, especially when adolescent children are involved.  David is the oldest of the four Stanley children, largely responsible for his younger siblings since the death of their mother.  Dad has just married Molly and with her comes Amanda, a daughter just a year older than David.  As if having a new older sister weren't odd enough in itself, Amanda believes she's a witch and is eager to initiate the Stanley kids.

The new family's new home, The Westerley House, is quite a character itself.  It's old, rundown and quite probably haunted.  Amanda and David learn of nineteenth century reports of a poltergeist and - wouldn't you know it? - mysterious things start happening around the house soon afterward.  Central to the story - and its title - is the staircase with its beautiful, hand-carved bannisters supported at the ends by cupids.  One of the cherubs, of course, is missing its noggin.

The real treat of The Headless Cupid is Blair, David's younger brother, four years old.  Blair is a quieter, more aloof version of A Wrinkle in Time's Charles Wallace.  Like CW, Blair is far better in tune with the mysterious forces of the universe than even David fully appreciates until the very end.

Not all children's books hold up for adult readers but The Headless Cupid is just as much fun as I remembered it.  Life experience, especially an appreciation for the challenges of raising a family, adds a great deal to the reading.  The story is sweet, spooky and occasionally very funny, indeed.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post September's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is September 26th.


44 comments:

  1. I'd never heard of this book before! I am going to have to hunt down a copy if I can. :)

    I was expecting it to be all creepy, but your review makes me think that's just one aspect to it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spooky would be my word for it, especially at the very end - not unpleasantly, though.

      Delete
  2. Oh, man. I am so getting this book.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm with Huntress, this book sounds like something I'd love. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you track it down, I hope you'll share your thoughts.

      Delete
  4. I'd be afraid to read one of my favorite children's books now, but it sounds like this one's held up.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some definitely hold up better than others. A couple of my favorite series from my youth, The Three Investigators and the Spaceship under the Apple Tree, have since gone out of print. I suspect there might be a reason why...

      Delete
  5. What a wonderful revisit of an old favorite! My kids loved her books, though my sensitive firstborn found her a little scary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can understand that. I'm not generally one for scary. This book is about my speed.

      Delete
  6. Well, it sounds interesting but, after my recenet re-experience with the Time books, I'm scared to try it. I'll try to remember to look for it next time we're in teh used book store, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I enjoyed it more than Wrinkle in Time as a reread. Continuing our ongoing discussion of L'Engle's books, I was surprised in my re-read of Wrinkle how few details I remembered from the first time, just as was the case for Headless Cupid. That says something in itself. Compare that to, for instance, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and yes, I know you're lukewarm on that one, too), which I know practically by heart.

      Delete
    2. On the other hand, I'm reading the second Oz book, right now, and it's wonderful. The review for it will be up soon.

      Delete
    3. He doesn't care too much for the suffragists, does he?

      Delete
    4. Oh, Baum was all for women's rights. His wife was some kind of leader in the movement or something. I don't think the story is anti-suffragist at all. Glinda's army is also women.

      Delete
    5. Well, okay... I have to admit, I wasn't so impressed by the second book.

      Delete
  7. I love Zilpha Keatley Snyder, but I've never read The Headless Cupid. I was introduced to Snyder in the fifth grade, I believe. What an interesting choice. I love learning about a book I've never read by an author I already appreciate.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case, again many years ago. But that's it. I'm curious about The Egypt Game.

      Delete
  8. The book I loved rereading from my childhood was Jerry Spinelli's Maniac Magee, which I'm pretty sure (I hope!) holds up in the same way.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know that one at all. I'll keep an eye out for it.

      Delete
  9. A wonderful idea. Unfortunately, in my childhood, Nancy Drew was about as dark as it got. I enjoyed Edgar A. Poe, however, much to my grandmother's disapproval.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never read Poe. It's shameful, I know, particularly in light of both his and my strong ties to Maryland.

      Delete
  10. I've been thinking of reading some childhood favorites, but I'm afraid I'll find out that they don't stand up to the test of time. I've glad you were able to find one that lived up to your fond memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've read a couple recently with an eye to sharing them with my daughter. I wanted to remind myself of the details so we can talk about them.

      Delete
  11. I've read one of her books and thought it was okay, but this one looks more interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Which one did you read? I wasn't as impressed by the next book in this series, The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case.

      Delete
    2. I don't know that one. I am curious about The Egypt Game, though.

      Delete
  12. Interesting review but I can't tell if it scary awful or scary in a fun way.
    I can't think right now how many books I read as a child that I have reread.
    Unless I read them to my children.
    How is the Open going for you ? Are your picks still in ?

    cheers, parsnip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely not scary awful, just a bit spooky at times.

      My picks - Federer and Serena - are still in, neither is a lock but the fact that they're both 33 and still reasonable picks to win is impressive. How about you?

      Delete
    2. Well yes and no. I used to follow tennis better when I played. Now I turn in and enjoy watching who ever is playing.
      Always like the Williams Sisters, Federer and Murray I also like Querry and Isner.

      Delete
    3. Pretty quiet first week, really, though things are starting to get interesting on the women's side with Halep and Kvitova both losing.

      Delete
  13. I doubt if many of the books I devoured as a kid would hold up for me today, but it might be fun to revisit some of them. I'm glad this book worked for you. It's interesting to see how our perspective about a book can change over the years, though, isn't it? I'm sure some of the books I adored when I was younger... like "The Cry and the Covenant"... would bore me to tears now. Ditto the Russian novels I read as a teen.

    Anyhow, "The Headless Cupid" sounds like it might be a fun read for both me and my grandchildren. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm rereading a few with an eye to sharing them with my daughter but she knows loads of books that I don't. I'm eager to read her favorites, too.

      Delete
  14. It sounds an intriguing book - I've never heard of this as a children's book, is it just American do you think and cross the ocean to the UK?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would hope so. Amazon's pretty accommodating these days. Back when there were still only three Harry Potter books, my wife was eager to have the British versions and Amazon was the answer.

      Delete
  15. I have to hunt this one down. It sounds like a fun ride!

    I read with my 5 y/o each night, so I'm constantly revisiting books of my youth. I find the ones I pick always stand up.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Veronica

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was sad when bedtime reading stopped with my daughter. It all happened very organically, she just wanted to start reading on her own instead - great for her, bittersweet for her parents. What have the two of you been reading, Veronica?

      Delete
  16. I haven't heard of this one, but it sounds like it's right up my alley. My spooky alley!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have a spooky alley?

      Yes, I think you'd like this one.

      Delete
  17. I remember reading The Changeling by Keatley Snyder and loving it. I didn't read this one and am thinking, from your review, that I'd really like it! Perhaps especially as the weather turns and the veil thins ... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Suze!

      If you read it, I'd love to know what you think.

      Delete
  18. This sounds like a fun read to share with the kids with the Halloween season approaching.

    ReplyDelete