Welcome, fellow book lovers! My name is Melissa LaSalle–a.k.a. The Book Mommy. I live in Alexandria, Virginia, with my husband and two kids, where I’m as passionate about reading to my own kids as I am about inspiring others to create a culture of literacy in their own homes. I’ve had over 25 years experience buying, selling, curating, and reviewing children’s books. These days, when I’m not working on reviews for my website or Instagram account (@thebookmommy), I’m making my way through monthly reading lists for Capitol Choices, a review committee comprised of children’s literature professionals from the Northern Virginia area.
A bit about my journey, as my love affair with children’s books began well before I had kids. 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 kid lit 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 the decision to move East. Pregnant with my second, I decided to 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: finding innovative ways to continue reading aloud to JP and Emily, even as they’re now reading independently; researching new titles (translate: spending WAY too much money on books); speaking at parenting and literacy events in the DC area; and curating my children’s school libraries and book fairs. 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: gorgeous, clever, inspiring books, which shape the way our children see the world. And yet, so many of these gems get lost in stacks of mediocre titles. As parents, we want our kids 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. But who has the time to sift through the sludge and pull out the gems? I DO. And the knowledge. And the passion.
And so, I give you my two cents on What to Read to Your Kids.
“I just wanted to send a quick personal word of thanks. When our daughter was born and my wife was breast feeding, I decided that bedtime stories were going to be “my thing.” That was among the best decisions in my life. In the last three years, we’ve been through hundreds of different books together- always at a rate of two per night. Your recommendations resonate so well with me and also with our daughter. Your post about Snatchabook summarized my feelings on the matter concisely—“I can’t imagine a better way to end our little ones’ days than with a story filled with such kindness and compassion.”” –Ed, Alexandria, VA
“Every year around this time I make a cup of tea and pull up your blog and do my Christmas shopping for all the kids in my family (now 9 with all the nieces and nephews!). Reading your blog is one of my favorite holiday traditions, and the kids have even started saying “I can’t wait to see what books you get me this year”. Your posts make me laugh, they make me cry…and really are such a treat. Thank you so much for all the work you do to keep your blog going, for all the AMAZING book recos, and for helping me keep my holiday tradition alive!” –Ansarie, Chicago, IL
“I don’t know how many people tell you this, but I appreciate you. I love your choices, I love books, I love reading to my kids, and I love that there is someone else in this world sharing that love. And when I needed to broaden our spaces of who we read, and the characters in our books – you were there for me. Again with beautiful suggestions that were so meaningful to me. I trust your voice. Thank you for sharing it.” –Kristina
“We just so appreciate the work you do here. We purchase a book for every child in our extended family for the holidays and for their birthdays – upwards of 4 dozen a year – and every single one is directly from your recommendations and has been for years.” –Sarah