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Etta Extraordinaire

Empowering Girls Through Characters Who Take Up Space

Written by Charnaie Gordon

There is power in books—and Here Wee Read founder Charnaie Gordon knows this more than most. She’s the author of several titles, a books blogger, podcast host, founder of 50 States 50 Books, and regularly recommends inspiring reads via her cult-followed Instagram feed. Her latest play in the children’s books arena is the creation of Etta Extraordinaire, co-written by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Chloe Burgett. Below, Charnaie talks about the importance of creating characters like the bold and unapologetic Etta.  

As mothers to vibrant, imaginative Black daughters, we reveled in their love for tea parties, glitter, and stories like Fancy Nancy, Eloise, and Pinkalicious. But we yearned for characters who looked like them, embodying pride, and joy. Representation has improved, yet many books still limit blackness to conflict. We wanted stories reflecting the full spectrum of Black girlhood—joy, creativity, and silliness. Simply put, we wanted to create a character where girls felt comfortable taking up space.

Every child, irrespective of race or background, deserves to see themselves in stories. Etta Extraordinaire, with her flair and boundless curiosity, embodies this inclusivity. Young readers will see themselves in Etta, joining her on glittery adventures and celebrating their uniqueness.

Before meeting Etta, you’ll hear her infectious energy. She’s a whirlwind of creativity, belting sixties soul tunes while planning and dreaming big. A lover of Harlem Renaissance, Etta’s style is unmatched, with cloche hats and flapper dresses, all inspired by her late Grandma Bess. Smart, stylish, and brave, she stands up for what’s right.

Etta’s not just stylish; she’s smart and courageous, unafraid to speak her mind or stand up for her friends. Despite her outward confidence, she grapples with her own insecurities, finding solace in her supportive family and friends, including Eartha the cat. Through her ups and downs, Etta teaches us that bravery comes in all sizes.

Life with Etta is always an adventure where every day feels like a tea party. Whether she’s facing stage fright or going on a school field trip, resilience shines through, reminding us to find joy in life’s challenges. With her, every moment becomes an opportunity to sparkle and spread confidence to those around us.

We believe it’s crucial for girls to see themselves represented authentically and confidently in children’s literature. When girls encounter characters like Etta Extraordinaire who take up space, whether it’s physically or through their personalities, it sends a powerful message that they too have the right to be bold, assertive, and unapologetically themselves.

Characters like Etta Extraordinaire, with their big personalities and boundless energy, can serve as inspiring role models for girls who might feel pressured to conform to narrow stereotypes. When girls see characters like Etta, who embrace their uniqueness and shine brightly, it encourages them to do the same. It’s about showing girls that they don’t have to shrink themselves or dim their light to fit in. Instead, they can celebrate their individuality and thrive in their own skin.

Furthermore, when girls see themselves reflected in literature, it validates their experiences and emotions. It lets them know that their stories matter and that they are worthy of being heard. By seeing characters like Etta Extraordinaire navigate challenges, make mistakes, and ultimately triumph, girls learn resilience and self-confidence. They realize that it’s okay to stumble along the way as long as they keep believing in themselves and their abilities.

Ultimately, by featuring strong, confident, and authentic girls like Etta Extraordinaire in children’s literature, we empower the next generation to embrace their identities and pursue their dreams with courage and conviction. When girls feel seen and valued in the stories they read, they are more likely to grow into confident, empowered women who are unafraid to take up space and make their voices heard in the world. And that’s a narrative worth celebrating and amplifying in every children’s book.

You can scoop up Etta Extraordinaire anywhere books are sold; and be sure to follow Charnaie at HereWeeRead.com and @HereWeeRead on Instagram.

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