Where did the baby name Tessalee come from in 2007?

Portion of the book "Firefly Cloak" (2006) by Sheri Reynolds
The book “Firefly Cloak

The compound name Tessalee is so rare that it has only appeared in the U.S. baby name data once, in 2007:

  • 2009: unlisted
  • 2008: unlisted
  • 2007: 6 baby girls named Tessalee [debut]
  • 2006: unlisted
  • 2005: unlisted

What put it there?

My best guess is the 2006 coming-of-age novel The Firefly Cloak by American author Sheri Reynolds. The book features a main character named Tessa Lee:

When 8-year old Tessa Lee and her brother, Travis, are abandoned in a campground by their desperate mother and her boyfriend of the moment, their mother leaves them only two things: a phone number printed in Magic Marker on Travis’s back and her favorite housecoat, printed with tiny fireflies, that she places over her sleeping children.

I’m not sure how well the novel sold, but one of Reynolds’ earlier novels, The Rapture of Canaan (1995), became an Oprah‘s Book Club selection in 1997, and consequently both a New York Times bestseller and a Publishers Weekly bestseller. So her later books certainly would have been on readers’ radars.

That said…the name Tessa also happened to see a boost in usage in 2007. In fact, that was the year Tessa saw peak usage overall. So whatever was influencing Tessa (actress Tessa Thompson perhaps?) may have been influencing Tessalee as well.

What do you think of the name Tessalee? Would you use it as a single name, or do you prefer “Tessa Lee” as a first/middle combo?

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