Header image with four cats and the text: Pussreboots, a book review nearly every day. Online since 1997
Now 2024 Previous Articles Road Essays Road Reviews Author Black Authors Title Source Age Genre Series Format Inclusivity LGBTA+ Artwork WIP

Recent posts

Month in review

Book Reviews:

All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown by Sydney Taylor
Bleach Volume 10 by Tite Kubo
Blood Matters by Masha Gessen
Burnt Bread and Chutney by Carmit Delman
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Flemming
The Company of Cats by Michael J. Rosen
Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi
Daisy Says Coo by Jane Simmons
Dance Hall of the Dead by Tony Hillerman
The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin
Doggies by Sandra Boynton
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Fast Profits in Hard Times by Jordan E. Goodman
First Editions by James Stoddard
Five Little Ducks by Dan Yaccarino
Five Thrillers by Robert Reed
The Fountain of Neptune by Kate Wilhelm
The 400-Million-Year Itch by Steven Utley
Grace's Letter to Lincoln by Peter and Connie Roop
Gregory III by Marc Hempel
The Gulls of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Tres Seymour
The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
The House on the Strand by Daphne du Maurier
How Do You Go the Bathroom in Space by William R. Pogue
Immortal Snake by Rachel Pollack
In an Instant by Lee and Bob Woodruff
It's Spring by Samantha Berger and Pamela Chanko
Jenny Archer to the Rescue by Ellen Conford
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Lion's Own Story by Crockett Johnson
London Orbital by Iain Sinclair
My Ántonia by Willa Cather
The Nocturnal Adventure of Dr. O and Mr. D by Tim Sullivan
Oh Boy, Boston! by Patricia Reilly Giff
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg by Philip José Farmer
Rebecca's Locket by S. L. Gilbow
Render Unto Caesar by Kevin N. Haw
Reunion by Robert Reed
Snakes by Adrienne Mason
Tales of Oliver Pig by Jean Van Leeuwen and Arnold Lobel
Test-Drive Your Dream Job by Brian Kurth
There's No Such Place as Far Away by Richard Bach
A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley
The Unspeakable by Charles L. Calia
The Willowdale Handcar by Edward Gorey
Who Stole the Wizard of Oz? by Avi
Z for Zachariah by Robert C. O'Brien

Flu and Stuff
Have You Brushed Your Fish Today?

Previous month

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

Beat the Backlist 2024

Ozathon: 12/2023-01/2025

Canadian Book Challenge: 2023-2024

Chicken Prints
Paintings and Postcards

Privacy policy

This blog does not collect personal data. It doesn't set cookies. Email addresses are used to respond to comments or "contact us" messages and then deleted.

The Willowdale Handcar: 04/12/08

Willowdale Handcar

I can't remember if my introduction to Edward Gorey's gothic humor was his animated opening to Mystery! or his illustrations in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T. S. Eliot (one of my cherished books of poetry). Anyway, I love his books and his art.

The back of the book describes The Willowdale Handcar or the Return of the Black Doll thusly:

In which three Pilgrims
     find mystery
     abort peril and
     partake of religious community.

And the discerning Reader
     discovers Meaning
     in their Progress.

Who are the pilgrims and where are they going? The first part is easy; they are Edna, Harry and Sam. They are going wherever the Willowdale handcar will take them. The mystery comes in the form of a number of characters they meet along the way including Nellie Flim who apparently is missing.

Who then is Nellie Flim from Miss Underfoot's Seminary? She's the mystery and the pilgrims Edna, Harry and Sam keep on her trail throughout the short book.

The peril then comes in the form of a number of misadventures and misfortunes: falling rocks, unexplained explosions, crashing cars and bad weather.

The religious community comes in many forms: Sam's experience at the seminary, the abandoned cemetery and the Halfbath Methodist Church. None of these places are enough of a draw to stop the pilgrims' progress.

So what is the meaning of their progress? I think an entire essay could be written on deciphering this cryptic little book: it's place names, it's character names and the artwork itself probably all mean something. I think on the surface it's a story about the journey, not the destination. Beyond that, I don't know except that I have enjoyed reading and rereading it.

Comments (2)

Lab puppy
Email (won't be posted):
Blog URL:

Comment #1: Sunday, April, 13, 2008 at 08:39:57


Sounds very cool. I will have to find my Old Possums Book of Pratical Cats and look for illustrations. "

Comment #2: Sunday, April, 13, 2008 at 10:17:11


When it was first published in 1940 it had illustrations by Nicolas Bentley. The 1982 and 2001 reprints have the Edward Gorey illustrations. "

Twitter Tumblr Mastadon Flickr Facebook Facebook Contact me

1997-2024 Sarah Sammis