The Wishing Machine

The Wishing Machine
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Age Range
Release Date
October 17, 2023
Buy This Book
Oge Mora’s Saturday meets Carmela Full of Wishes in this touching and whimsical picture book about a mother and child’s last trip to their local laundromat before moving away.

Every Sunday after cereal, Sam and Mom walk to the laundromat, wash their clothes, and see their friends. But this Sunday is different. Today, doing laundry means packing clean clothes in boxes to move away. Sam doesn’t want to leave their neighborhood and friends. Maybe if they hope with all their might, they can turn a washing machine into a wishing machine!

Sam’s imagination transforms the mundane into a series of wonders as they cope with change and learn the true meaning of home.

Editor review

1 review
Wash Day Blues
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Every Sunday, Sam and his mom go to the laundromat to wash their clothes. It's a cozy place where they can hang out with their friends, but this week is sadder. Sam and his mother are leaving their apartment in the city and moving in with his grandfather, who lives far away from the laundromat. While it will be good to spend time with his grandfather, Sam will miss having an apartment with just him and his mother. Putting coins in the washing machine reminds him of throwing coins into a wishing well, so he makes a wish. Others do as well, but Sam soon learns that his wish won't work. His mother reminds him that her wish is just for them to be together and be happy, and he thinks that he can embrace this idea as well.

Good Points
Society today doesn't use "third places" as much; institutions like churches and community centers, or parks, libraries or local restaurants where people spend time away from home and work. The portrayal of the laundromat community is bittersweet; Sam loves seeing his friends there, but is going to have to move away. He clearly has spent a lot of time there, and routines are very comforting to children. There is an unspoken message that Sam and his mother might be moving out of their apartment because of money issues, but they might also be moving in order to support the grandfather as he is getting older. Sam has to deal with other issues on top of the move, but has a lot of support from his mother.

The idea of wishing is one that young children will embrace, and some of the friends at the laundromat have more realistic wishes than others. The problem with wishes is that sometimes there is not way for them to come true, and Sam's acceptance of this is well portrayed.

Alam's illustrations capture the warm feel of a laundromat on a snowy day; I especially liked the steamed up windows. Sam's mother is looking a bit tired and harried, but she lets him have a bag of cookies from a vending machine when they have money left. The vending machine also spits out a lot of excess change, but Sam's mother encourages honesty, and the two give the money back.

I haven't seen many other books about laundromats other than The Laundromat Cat
by Giangrande and Huang, but Sam's story would be at home with books about moving, like Medina and Sanchez' Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away, or Yamasaki' and Lendler's Everything Naomi Loved. What I would like to see is an entire picture book about how enthralling vending machines are, or the lure of the gumball machines that produce tiny toys.
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