Armchair BEA- Middle Grade Science Fiction and Fantasy and me

So over at BEA, bloggers are meeting in person today...talking about blogging things.  Here at Armchair BEA, the topics are paths to becoming a better blogger, and genres.  I'm kind of combining the two, with a few thoughts on how I became a happier (not necessarily better) blogger by focusing on my favorite subgenre--middle grade science fiction and fantasy.  If you are already a reader of my blog, this post doesn't say anything much you haven't read before; if you are not, welcome!
About two years into blogging, I niched myself.  I realized that the books I was most happy to read and write about were middle grade sci fi/fantasy, and the younger feeling sci fi/fantasy Young Adult books.  

On the up-side, I've chosen to blog about the books I most enjoy reading, and why not.   I've always loved fantasy books written for kids, but I think I might be enjoying them even more these days, in as much as I have a voracious 10 year old reader of my own to share them with (he's currently reading The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and Loki's Wolves).

And also on the up-side, I know with a conviction that survives even the darkest moments of blogging doubt that my blog is a useful resource to people who want to know about mg sff.   That's hugely important to me--although there are other fine reasons to blog, I want to feel that there is a point to all the time I put into this that goes beyond simply having a place to talk about books for my own enjoyment.   Mg sff doesn't get a whole lot of coverage by the pro blogs (School Library Journal, Kirkus), and so I feel that I'm helping fill a void.

I'm proud of two things in particular--I have reviewed over 200 time travel books, making my blog pretty much the best resource around for people looking for time travel for kids.   And I've reviewed around a 100 multicultural sci fi/fantasy books, most of them for kids.   Another thing I do to be useful is that every Sunday I round-up all the mg sff posts I can find--something I started doing because I wanted someone else to already have done it! (Here's last week's).  Next week will be the 180th round-up...almost four years... (If you ever review a mg sff book, please send me the link!).

The down side is that it's hard to reach lots of readers if you are niched.  I'm pretty sure I'm reaching a number of grown-ups who share my reading tastes, and I'm pretty sure I'm reaching librarians and teachers.  But I know I'll never have as wide a readership as people blogging more popular genres, and I would love, love, love, to know how to reach out to all the people out there busily providing books to young readers--the parents, for instance, of the voraciously reading middle graders.

But anyway, here I am, happily blogging the mg sff, and planning to continue so doing for the foreseeable future!

If you have an eleven year old on hand, or want to try some fun mg sff yourself, here are some favorites from my 2013 reading so far--

Doll Bones, by Holly Black
The Water Castle, by Megan Frazer Blakemore
The Menagerie, by Tui T. Sutherland and Kai Sutherland
Bot Wars, by J.V. Kade
Jinx, by Sage Blackwood

Speaking of genres more generally, I'd like to put a plug in for the Cybils Awards.  If you are looking to explore all the various subgenres of children's and YA books, the shortlists for different categories of Cybils Awards are an excellent place to start!  The panelists who pick these books are all bloggers like us, so if you review lots of books in one of these genres, watch out for the announcement calling for panelists for the upcoming Cybils season!


  1. How is your son liking Loki's Wolves?

    I have The Menagerie on my nightstand right now.

    1. He is still reserving judgement....I hope you enjoy The Menagerie!

  2. I love your selection of multicultural SF/F! I've been trying to read more books with an emphasis on diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, but I've mostly focused on adult books with only the occasional YA. Your list is giving me more ideas for my TBR list. :)

    1. Thanks! I hope you find some you enjoy!

  3. I have found that being in the more popular genres is where the big books are at, but I am really enjoying some independent authors Enjoy the books with your son!

  4. I love your blog, even though I don't get here for all the reviews. You do a great service spotlighting MG fantasy and I love the round-ups to see all the other blogs featuring middle grade books. I know it must be a lot of work. Thanks so much for doing it.

  5. Thanks for all your supportive words, Natalie! They are much appreciated.

  6. It may be hard to reach some readers if you put yourself in a niche, but it does depend on what that niche is. Reviewing mid-grade fantasy and sci-fi is a smaller niche than mid-grade fiction in general, but I would consider both to be niches in their own right, really.

    I used to read and review far more varied stuff on my blog. Mostly fantasy, but I'd also throw in nonfiction, random contemporary stuff, whatever I read and felt like talking about. And while that was okay, I actually found my blog's readership increased once I tightened my focus a bit. I figure it's because more people were coming because they knew what they could expect from me. It was less an issue of, "Is she even going to review sci-fi or fantasy today?" and more, "WHICH sci-fi or fantasy will be reviewed today?", which made it easier to find me a target audience.

    I rather like your blog even though I don't read much in the way of mid-grade fiction (though I have read and reviewed a few titles on my blog, I admit), and will continue to read it mostly to keep up with the awesome titles being released for that age group. I do love seeing kids being pulled into the fantasy fold early. :D

  7. You know I love visiting your blog. Often you feature a book I've never heard of before or a book I really really want or a book I'm on the fence about. :)


  8. You SHOULD be proud about what a resource your blog has become in its niche. I'm constantly amazed at how many wonderful time-travel books you've been able to find to read.


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