Guidelines with Gabi: Kids First Book Club

August 11, 2023

On this Talking Pediatrics episode, Guidelines with Gabi guest host turns the microphone over to the ultimate experts in books for children – kids! We’ll hear from kids about how books help them to explore their world, feel seen, discuss difficult topics, and be entertained. Plus you’ll hear about a lot of great books and series to share with friends, family and patients.


Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: This is Talking Pediatrics, a clinical podcast by Children’s Minnesota, home to the kid experts where the complex is our every day. Each week we bring you intriguing stories and relevant pediatric health care information as we partner with you in the care of your patients. Our guests, data, ideas and practical tips will surprise, challenge, and perhaps change how you care for kids.

Welcome to Talking Pediatrics. I’m your host, Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd. On this Talking Pediatrics episode our Guidelines with Gabi guest host, Dr. Gabi Hester, turns the microphone over to the ultimate expert in books for children, kids. We’ll hear from kids about how books help them to explore their world, feel seen, discuss difficult topics, and be entertained. Plus, you’ll hear about a lot of great books and series to share with friends, families, and patients.

Speaker 2: Welcome to Book Club with Gabi.

On today’s Guidelines With Gabi episode, we are putting kids first.


We will be hearing about great books to introduce or discuss tough topics, inspire new readers, or just to have fun.

We will be going to the real kid experts, kids themselves.

Dr. Gabi Hester: So I’m wondering if you can tell me what your favorite book or series of books is, and why.

Max: My name is Max. I’m 11 years old, and I live in Wisconsin. My favorite book is Harry Potter.

Louis: I’m Louis. I’m eight years old, and my favorite books are Matilda and The [inaudible 00:02:01].

Catherine: My name is Catherine. I’m nine, and I’m from Minnesota, Duluth. I would have to say I really like The Baby-Sitters Club, because I love to babysit, and it helps teach me a little bit about that. It’s also about a group of friends who just love having fun together, and they solve mysteries, and they deal with problems together. It’s a really good series, and I would recommend it to a lot of people.

Everett: I’m Everett. I’m seven, and I live in Duluth, Minnesota. The Boxcar Children.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Why do you love The Boxcar Children?

Everett: Because it’s mystery series.

Dr. Gabi Hester: What draws you in to mysteries?

Everett: I like to try to find them out before the people in the book do.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Do you ever succeed and solve the mystery?

Everett: I do.

Dr. Gabi Hester: You do. Everett, was there a particular book that got you interested in reading on your own? Maybe you had been read to and enjoyed hearing books. But was there a book that really made you think, “Hey, I can do this”?

Everett: Henry Hecklebeck.

Dr. Gabi Hester: What was it about Henry Hecklebeck that made you feel like you could be a reader?

Everett: Because it was a chapter book, but it was one of the easiest kinds of chapter books.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Sometimes when I’m reading, I like to think of how I relate to the characters that I’m reading about, and how it sort of goes along with my life at all. Are there any characters in the books that you like that sort of remind you of yourself? Catherine, what about you? What character reminds you of yourself in books that you like to read?

Catherine: In the Baby-Sitters Club, Mary Anne. She reminds me about myself, because she’s kind of shy, and she gets good grades, and she loves to read.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Now, one thing that I know grownups sometimes use books for is sort of a tool to talk with kids about tough topics. What are some books that have helped you learn some important things?

Catherine: Well, I’ve been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series and the Birchbark House series, and I started reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Those all kind of help me realize that there are some tough times in the world. In Little Town on the Prairie, in the Laura Ingalls Wilder series, they had a lot of racism in that book. And now, in Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which is based on the 1930s, it’s still going on, and I just don’t like that. I love the books, but it’s a tough topic to discuss, and I think that having books to help you with that really helps.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Everett, I know you’re seven, and so there’s a lot of learning that you’re doing about how to navigate friendships or how to learn about some of the rules for staying safe out in the world. Are there any books or series that have helped you think about how to learn some of the rules for staying safe and healthy?

Everett: The Berenstain Bears Double Dare.

Dr. Gabi Hester: What did that book teach you?

Everett: Don’t do everything that someone else tells you to do, if it’s a bad thing.

Dr. Gabi Hester: So if your parent or grownup in your life tells you to do something, that might be okay. Right?

Everett: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Are you saying if a kid at school or something tells you to do something?

Everett: Mm-hmm.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Can you give an example of that?

Everett: If someone tells you to go pick a pumpkin from someone else’s pumpkin patch.

Dr. Gabi Hester: So, note to self. No pickings out of other people’s pumpkin patches. What is your favorite book or series, and why?

Hadley: I’m Hadley. I’m 12 years old, and I’m from Ohio. I liked The Hunger Games and Divergent a lot, because the powerful female character kind of rises up to fight back against the oppressors.

Lily: My name is Lily, and I’m from Utah. My favorite book is The Year We Fell from Space. It’s long book.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Is there anything about the book that reminds you of yourself?

Lily: Liberty’s little sister carried around a stuffed animal, just like I do.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Oh, that’s awesome. So, it kind of makes you feel like there’s someone out there like you, huh?

Lily: Yeah.

Sam: My name is Sam, and I’m nine. Minneapolis. Right now, my favorite book is Percy Jackson, Battle of the Labyrinth.

Teddy: Hi. I’m Teddy. I’m 14, and I have read a book before. I live in Brooklyn Park. My favorite book could be The Worldwide Dessert Contest.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Ooh, tell me about The Worldwide Dessert Contest.

Teddy: The book focuses on a man named John Applefeller, who tries to make apple desserts every year, and they fail and turn into random objects that are not a dessert at all. That become food and turn into inanimate objects. So he goes on this adventure with a janitor, Rusty, and his friend, Stanley. So they go on an adventure to see this guy Rollie Ragoon, who is very good at making desserts. They make apple pies that fly. They’re flying apple pies. And he brings them back to the dessert contest to try to spite his arch enemy, Sylvester Sweet.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Sam, tell me about your favorite book.

Sam: It’s about Percy, who’s a demigod. He is the son of Poseidon, and there’s a new person in charge of most of the things. His name is Quintus, and he has a hellhound as a pet.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Wow.

Sam: Someone in the book saw him in the labyrinth, and Luke’s army is trying to invade the camp. It’s an army of monsters. The reason that they can’t just invade the camp is because it has magic boundaries.

Dr. Gabi Hester: So beyond all the excitement and action, do you feel like there’s something that you’ve learned or been taught by reading the book?

Sam: The only thing that I’ve been taught is to not fall into a cave.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Do not fall into a cave. Okay. So should I read the book, or can I just take your word for it that that’s a bad idea?

Sam: You should read the book.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Teddy, have you ever been incentivized for your reading?

Teddy: I still have some old reading medals, because I was ahead of my grade when I was originally reading. So much so that once, they took me and they sent me to a college for a day to take some reading courses, reading and writing, and basically just show me more stuff that was advanced for my grade level.

Dr. Gabi Hester: That’s awesome. Sam, you look like you have things you want to say.

Sam: So every year in February, my school has a read-a-thon. And this year I got top 10%, and I got top two in the grade.

Dr. Gabi Hester: What? That-

Sam: So, I got to go to a pancake party.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Pancake party?

Sam: So, there were pancakes. We got to put chocolate chips, whipped cream, sprinkles, strawberries, and syrup. I read 8,625 minutes.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Wow. That’s a lot of minutes.

Sam: 28 days.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Okay. I can’t do the math that fast, but that seems like a lot of minutes per day.
So I’m wondering if you can tell me what your favorite book or series of books is, and why.

Miles: Hi. My name is Miles Gran, and I live in Wisconsin. I’m nine years old, and my favorite book is The Unwanteds.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Awesome.

Juniper: Hi. My name is Juniper. I’m 17 years old. I am going to be a senior this year. I live in Duluth, Minnesota, and I love books. I mean, as a little kid, the first chapter books I remember reading were the Junie B. Jones series and the Magic Tree House series. Those were kind of my intro to the world of literature.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Tell me a little bit about Junie B. Jones. What’s her jam? What does she get into?

Juniper: As a little kid I hated being compared to her, but I was 100% the living version of Junie B. Jones. She’s this little kindergartner with jaw-length brown hair and no fear to speak her mind. All of her teachers hate her, and she has such a great personality. As a little kid I hated being compared to her, but I was 100% Junie B. Jones as a kid. She was just not afraid to be herself.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Do you still feel that way, or has that changed?

Juniper: I actually appreciate the character a lot more now that I’ve gotten older. I respect everything that that kid got away with doing.

Dr. Gabi Hester: So, Junie B. Jones kind of reminded you of yourself back in the day. Is there a character now in the books that you’re reading that reminds you of yourself?

Juniper: I always identified a little bit with Hermione Granger from Harry Potter, a little bit with Annabeth Chase from the Percy Jackson series. Those female characters who are kind of unafraid to be smart alecks. The ones who aren’t afraid to be themselves. I always looked up to those, and getting older, identify with them a little bit.

Dr. Gabi Hester: We know that books can be used as fun, and escaping, and getting to have these imaginative adventures. They can also be tools to be used as discussion points or to learn about sometimes some tough topics. As a pediatrician, often I’m talking with families about, “How do you talk about some of the tough things that are happening in the world these days?” Are there any books or series that you read or encountered that have helped you process some of the tough topics in the world, or that you’ve talked about with your family?

Juniper: Yeah. A lot of books I read have done a really good job of talking about racism as a major point. I’ve read a handful of really good ones that do a great job of talking about queer people, and queer identities, and queer families, which is so important. I think that’s definitely something that we don’t do a great job of introducing little kids to at a young age, and I think it’s important to do that.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Those books or series, can you tell me the names or authors?

Juniper: So there’s some awesome childhood books that do a really good job of introducing kids to queer families at a young age, to diversity at a young age. I know there’s a book called And Tango Makes Three that’s about these penguins. It’s two penguins in a zoo who mated and adopted a egg that had been left behind. That’s a really cute book. There’s another one called Heather Has Two Mommies. That’s about a little girl and her two moms, which is something I really wish that I had been able to read as a little kid. Because I come from a two-mom family, and I never saw myself … I saw myself as a person, but I never saw a family like mine in books when I was a little kid.

Dr. Gabi Hester: And we know how important that is, for kids to be able to see themselves in the books that they’re reading. Also, for kids who might not see themselves, to make it normal. Right? To normalize, “This is how some families, are and that’s great, and they have adventures too.” So I can see how it’s both powerful for people who more strongly identify with that, for themselves or their family, but also kids who don’t come from a two-mom family, for example, like you’re saying. So what about now, in your adult life? Are there books that you’ve read that help you understand that area of space of gender identity, and queer families, and things like that?

Juniper: There’s this book I love. It’s a very weird way to describe it, but it’s a gay political romance. It’s called Red, White & Royal Blue. It’s not for young readers, but it’s a really good book to introduce that combination of coming from sometimes a more conservative background combined with coming out as queer. So, it does a really good job of that. The Rick Riordan books, I will preach these to the sky. They are such a great series, but the later ones do a really good job of gender identity. Magnus Chase books do a fantastic job with gender identity. The Apollo books do a great job with figuring out who you are when it comes to sexuality. Those books also do a fairly decent job of … They’ve got a Native American character who is figuring out her roots again, which is, I’d say, a race that’s not talked about very often in books. So, I thought that was a really cool point.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Those are really … I mean, Rick Riordan? Is that what you said the author was?

Juniper: Rick Riordan. Yeah.

Dr. Gabi Hester: When I was a kid, graphic novels, I didn’t even know they existed, really. Are graphic novels a way that you’ve engaged with literature and reading? Is that something you’ve been excited about?

Juniper: Oh, 100%. Yeah. Graphic novels, they were a really great way that I actually got into reading longer books. They also, a lot of them, a really good job of telling from certain perspectives. So, I read the … I don’t know if you’ve heard of the Raina Thomas Smile books. I loved those when I was a little kid. I read Sisters, and I loved that one, because I have a little sister. We fought just about as much as those two did. There’s a great book called El Deafo by Cece Bell. It’s about a little girl with a hearing … She’s got major hearing loss, and I was a little kid with some hearing loss. So it was really cool to see a character like that reflected, especially since disabilities are very rarely talked about in children’s books. And then as I got older, I got into the world of fantasy and magic through the Amulet series. Yeah. Graphic novels do a really great way of combining picture books and chapter books together in a way that little kids can engage in.

Adella: My name is Adella. I’m six years old, and my favorite book is Dory Fantasmagory.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Dory Fantasmagory.

Adella: Yes.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Well, what is it about?

Adella: Well, a rascal whose brother and sister hated her. So, they made a-

She has an imaginary friend, and her enemies [inaudible 00:17:18].

Adella: And she shoots Mrs. Gobble Gracker in the butt with a dart.

Dr. Gabi Hester: What? Wow.

Speaker 15: Oh, and there’s a sequel.

Dr. Gabi Hester: A sequel. Good, because we have to hear what happens after that. Awesome. Thinking about books again, from the perspective of someone who might be in the position to be talking with families and their kids about how to be healthy, and how to grow and develop well, what either did your pediatrician tell you as a kid or tell your family? Or what do you wish they had done? What would a strategy be that you’d recommend to pediatricians as far as how they can incorporate books into that well-child check stuff?

Juniper: Yeah. I don’t remember anything specific from when I was a little kid. Because when I was a little kid going to the doctor, I was not paying attention to what my pediatrician was telling my parents. I was paying attention to the sucker we got given at the end of the visit. But I know I had a great pediatrician. I mean, I still know her. We still go see her every so often, and she’s a great person. Pediatricians are in the best position to recommend books that give a worldview to kids, to parents. So I think it’s important to not only do books that teach kids how to be good people or how to be a world citizen, but also books that teach them about perspectives they might see. About racial diversity, about queer people and queer families, about disabilities and all sorts of things that aren’t always in those storybooks about nuclear families.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Catherine, how do you think doctors or pediatricians, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, all the people who are helping keep you healthy, how do you think they should talk to kids and the grownups who help take care of them about books?

Catherine: I think that recommending books or books about what they’re doing to the kid is a nice way to explain things. It’s also a way that you can not be as scared, if it’s a [inaudible 00:19:34] book and it’s about someone else who is having the same problems or trouble as you. It really might make you feel a little bit more happy or better about what you’re going through.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Sam, what do you think? I’m a doctor. Should I be talking with kids about what it means to be a reader, and helping families understand how to use books?

Sam: Yes.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Why should I do that?

Sam: Tell the families that to become a reader, you have to read every day.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Do you read every day, bud?

Sam: Yes.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Yeah. Teddy, what do you want to say about reading and books?

Teddy: Reading is a key part of your life. I know it sounds cheesy, and people have definitely said that before. But reading even a little bit every day, it will help your mindset. Even in the summer, when you’re on summer break, you should still read because it keeps your mind fresh.

Dr. Gabi Hester: What about you, Everett? Do you ever put books on hold?

Everett: Yes.

Dr. Gabi Hester: How many books do you put on hold at a time?

Everett: Well, we’re only allowed to do 15, but I have to split.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Yeah. Who do you have to split with?

Everett: My sister.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Does that ever cause some trouble in the house?

Everett: Yeah.

Speaker 16: Yes.

Teddy: Take-home books.

Everett: Number one.

Catherine: I would say you have to read The Birchbark House if you’re excited about learning about events. Also, if you live up in Duluth or down in the Twin Cities, it’s really cool book series. Because the owner of the book series lives down in the Twin Cities, and then the place it’s based on is up in Duluth.

Sam: Number two.

Everett: The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner.

Sam: Number three. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney.

Louis: Number four.

Teddy: The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley.

Louis: Number five.

Juniper: One called The Chicken of the Family by Mary Amato.

Louis: Number six.

Sam: Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan.

Louis: Number seven.

Teddy: The Worldwide Dessert Contest by Dan Elish.

Louis: Number eight.

Juniper: Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Well, thank you very much for joining us today on this …

Catherine: Guidelines with Gabi, a special episode for kids and about great books.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Can’t even get a word in edgewise. I love it. Excellent. You want to just take my job?

Catherine: Yes.

Dr. Gabi Hester: Okay. Perfect.

Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd: Thank you for joining us for Talking Pediatrics. Come back each week for a new episode with our caregivers and experts in pediatric health. Our executive producer and showrunner is Ilze Vogel. Episodes are engineered, produced, and edited by Jake Beaver. Amie Juba is our marketing representative. For more information and additional episodes, visit us at, and to rate and review our show, please go to