About Me

My name is Melissa LaSalle–a.k.a. The Book Mommy. I live outside Washington D.C. with my husband, our son in elementary school, and our daughter in preschool. My love affair with books began well before I had kids, when, during a “gap year” between high school and college, I worked at a children’s bookstore in New York City. My co-workers and I spent our weekends combing used bookstores along the East Coast, rediscovering gems from our own childhoods. After earning a BA in English Literature from Princeton University (where I took every children’s literature class offered), I spent several years in the advertising business (working on accounts like Luvs Diapers and Kellogg’s cereals) before the draw of children’s books once again proved too strong. I partnered with a friend who had recently opened a wonderful independent children’s shop in Chicago called The Red Balloon; for the next 10 years, I became known as The Book Lady, pouring my heart and soul into expanding the store’s book offerings and matching the right books with the right families. Along the way, I gave birth to my son and my belief in the power of children’s books grew even stronger. And then one day, my husband was offered a job opportunity too good to pass up, and we made a difficult but ultimately fulfilling decision to move East. Pregnant with my second, I thought I’d try my hand at becoming a Full-Time Mom.

Years later, I still love being home with my kids, but I’ll never shake my obsession with children’s books: reading constantly to JP and Emily, researching new titles (translate: spending WAY too much money on books), making customized book lists for friends, speaking at parenting groups in the DC area, and curating our local Montessori school’s library. All my adult life, people have asked me, “If you love kids’ books so much, why not write them? Why not publish them?” My answer is simple: there are no shortage of fantastic books being published every year: books that are clever, that are beautiful, that inspire, that shape the way we see the world–in short, books that OUR CHILDREN SHOULD BE READING. And yet, so many of these gems get lost in the stacks of mediocre titles that are simultaneously being published. As Moms, we want the best for our kids, we want them to grow up loving books, to develop their imaginations, to have the gumption to seek out answers to the never-ending stream of questions they have about themselves and the world. And yet, who has the time to sift through the sludge and pull out these gems? I DO. And the knowledge. And the passion. And so, I give you my two cents on What to Read to Your Kids.

§ 25 Responses to About Me

  • Barbara LaSalle says:

    As a grandmother I certainly wish I had this annotated list of highly recommended books when I was reading to my children. Now my grandchildren will benefit. Thanks, Melissa.

    • Jamie says:

      I used to grab 10 books from the library and end up only liking 1 or 2 for my sons. Now I use your recommendations and end up loving almost all of them. Life is too short for OK books. Bring on good books! Thanks for helping parents do a better job

  • Barbara Lydecker Crane says:

    What a wonderful, thoughtful, well-crafted resource for parents and teachers and anyone who loves books and children. Bravo!!!

  • As you know, I too, am a bit obsessed with children’s literature. I think the librarians at our local library think I’m nuts because I bring the kids in so much, but they continue to let us in!! Thanks so much for sharing your amazing knowledge, Melissa! Love to you all 😉

  • Elizabeth Crane Tipton says:

    Hi Melissa – I LOVE your blog! I can’t wait to share it with friends, and to enjoy your great writing…and, most of all, book recommendations.
    xoxo

  • choreograph999 says:

    I am so glad you are doing this blog. I have already recommended it to several librarian friends at the elementary level. I miss talking with you everyday about books and sharing your enthusiasm for new titles and book vendor visits. I still think you’d make one heck of a children’s librarian. 🙂 I miss you, friend.

  • choreograph999 says:

    I am so glad you are doing this blog. I miss talking to you everyday about kids’ books and sharing your enthusiasm for new titles and vendor visits. I still think you’d be one heck of a children’s librarian! 🙂 I miss you, friend.

  • Susan Singleton says:

    Your Uncle Bill shared your blog with me, and I’m so grateful. I’d never heard of the British writer and we’ll be checking her out asap. Many thanks for sharing your book knowledge & experience!
    BTW, have you experienced Barbara Berger’s beautilful books, e.g. “Grandfather Twilight”? She’s been one of our favorites for years. Susan Singleton

    • Thanks, Susan! So glad you are enjoying the blog. And yes, I love “Grandfather Twilight”–we read it all the time! I’m definitely planning to do a post soon about moon books…so many great ones…

  • so glad to have discovered your blog! actually, my family and i relocated from chicago (from dickens in bucktown and thus up the street from red balloon– oh do we miss that place!) a year ago! i wish we could find places like that here! at least i can have access to your recs virtually!

  • allysonhobbs says:

    Melissa! I LOVE your blog! I have shared it on facebook with all the parents I know and they LOVE it too! I just shared with with a friend who needed a non-Disney book to read to his son’s kindergarten class. Thank you so much for sharing your brilliance, your keen eye, and your expertise. But one thing…you did not answer the question of why (or when) are you going to write a children’s book!!! We are all waiting!!

  • Debbie Wang says:

    Melissa — I was just thinking about reaching out to you this morning to get some book recommendations, when lo and behold, I found your blog. Thank you!!! My kindergartener is enthralled with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory right now (after being initially disappointed that he received a brown-colored book from Aunt Alice), and I’m thinking about what to put on the reading list next.

    I still visit the Red Balloon whenever I get a chance. Hope you’re doing well!

    • Debbie, what a wonderful surprise to hear from you! I hope you and your family are well. I had to chuckle when I read your comment about the “brown book” because we just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with our kindergartener (but please, don’t make the mistake that we did and go for the sequel: Charlie and the Glass Elevator is a far cry from the original–read: mind-numbingly boring). Other suggestions for read-aloud chapter books for your son would be My Father’s Dragon (I did a post on this gem here), Cricket in Times Square, James and the Giant Peach, Charlotte’s Web (my son ADORED this and we both teared up at the ending), Trumpet of the Swans, the Little House on the Prairie series (that’s right, it’s not just for girls–my son loves them!), The Penderwicks series (newish and absolutely fantastic), How to Train Your Dragon series (much better than the movie), The Borrowers series, and I could go on and on. You should definitely enter your email (ie. “subscribe”) and then you’ll get an email with every new post. Also, six and seven are GREAT ages for long picture books and (especially for boys) non-fiction like picture book biographies (I also did a recent post about these here. Enjoy and stay warm in Chicago!

  • elisa kleven says:

    Hi book obsessed mom. I love your blog. Thanks for your lovely write up of PUDDLE PAIL, which I just discovered. So glad it resonates with you and your children. Warm wishes, Elisa

  • Maia says:

    Hi Melissa,
    Jordan told me about your blog, so I wanted to come visit. I still buy children’s books despite the fact that I have no kids of my own to read them to. One of my latest favorites is a counting primer inspired by Pride and Prejudice. Any way, if you feel like visiting the blog I’ve been working on, thesaltwatertwin.wordpress.com, stop on by! Maia
    P.S. I also noticed the comment above about read aloud chapter books — I adored (and still do) the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series.

    • Hi Maia, thanks so much for taking the time to read some of my posts! Your blog is lovely as well–I especially like the piece about why you write. I too feel like I’ve been doing both since as long as I can remember and it’s impossible to divorce the two. And yes, those BabyLit board book (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and the like) are pretty funny, especially for baby shower gifts. 🙂 Cheers!

  • Saira Rao says:

    Dear Melissa–I’ve been following your blog for a bit–as a mom with young kids who is always looking for great books and also as a co-founder of IN THIS TOGETHER MEDIA. We publish “great books about real girls” – early chapter books, middle grade and YA fiction with a focus on authentic female characters. We were recently profiled in Publishers Weekly and I’d love to chat with you about our wonderful books!

  • celeste says:

    Do you have a section of your site that lists recommended books by age?

    • Hi! Currently I only have the posts grouped thematically rather than by age. But I totally agree that there needs to be a way to sort by age group. It’s on my radar: if not for the holidays than definitely early in the new year! Thanks!

  • Margot'sMom says:

    I am across the board not a comment-leaver and I have to leave a comment here to tell you how much I love your blog.

    I’m a fellow Chicagoan addicted to children’s books. We have enjoyed some of the most delightful finds through your recommendations. My daughter is almost two. Some of our favorites are Beach Feet, Little Mouse, Little Gorilla and Following Papa’s Song. Thank you for inspiring wonderful story times (and lighter wallets) in our house!

    • Margot’s Mom, I am so flattered that you would break your no comment rule for me. 😉 AND you clearly have great taste in books. Sounds like your daughter is a lot like mine–which is great news for you (since I have soooooo many more awesome books to tell you about this fall) and bad news for your wallet. Thank goodness for libraries! And holiday wish lists! Although I still spend wayyyyyyyyy too much time in bookstores. 🙂

  • Lesley says:

    Wow, this is the blog I have been looking… it’s like you read my mind when you created this haven of amazing books from a mom’s perspective. Since I began homeschooling my 10 year old and 4 year old two years ago, I have become completely obsessed with QUALITY amazing childrens books and I applaud this amazing blog!

    • thebookmommy says:

      Thank you so much, Lesley! I’m thrilled that you are finding the blog useful. I can imagine you have your hands full homeschooling a 10 and 4 year old–I applaud you!!! I always joke that, if I were to start homeschooling my kids, we would just sit around and read books all day. There’s a book for everything, right? 🙂

I'd love to hear what you think! Comment here.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Julia's Bookbag

Unique Recommendations from The Book Mommy

Sunlit Pages

Unique Recommendations from The Book Mommy

What Do We Do All Day?

Books and Activities for Kids

There's a Book for That

Where book love and the joy of a classroom community are shared

The Picture Book Review

Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

the family that reads together

a Kid Lit Blog for parents

Writing for Kids (While Raising Them)

Blog & website of children's book author Tara Lazar

This Kid Reviews Books

A Place for Kids and Grown-Ups to Discover Books

What to Read to Your Kids

Unique Recommendations from The Book Mommy

musing

a laid-back lit journal

Peter Brown Studio

Unique Recommendations from The Book Mommy

The Horn Book

Unique Recommendations from The Book Mommy

Number Five Bus presents...

potentially interesting interactions with fellow book people

Design Mom

Unique Recommendations from The Book Mommy

Delightful Children's Books

Find a book to delight a child.

%d bloggers like this: