THE GIRL FROM EARTH’S END
Twelve-year-old Henna loves living with her two papas and cultivating her beloved plants on the tiny island of Earth’s End—until Papa Niall grows seriously ill. Now Henna is determined to find a legendary, long-extinct plant with miraculous healing powers, even though the search means journeying all the way to St. Basil’s Conservatory, a botanical boarding school rumored to house seeds of every plant ever grown. At St. Basil’s, Henna is surrounded not only by incredible plants, but also, for the first time, other kids—including her new roommates: wisecracking, genderfluid P, who gleefully bends every rule they come up against, and wealthy,
Twelve-year-old Henna loves living with her two papas and cultivating her beloved plants on the tiny island of Earth’s End—until Papa Niall grows seriously ill. Now Henna is determined to find a legendary, long-extinct plant with miraculous healing powers, even though the search means journeying all the way to St. Basil’s Conservatory, a botanical boarding school rumored to house seeds of every plant ever grown. At St. Basil’s, Henna is surrounded not only by incredible plants, but also, for the first time, other kids—including her new roommates: wisecracking, genderfluid P, who gleefully bends every rule they come up against, and wealthy, distant Lora, who is tired of servants doing everything for her, from folding her clothes to pushing her wheelchair. But Henna’s search for the fabled healing seed means she doesn’t have time for friends—or so she thinks. This tender tale, blossoming with moments of joy, is a story of hope, grief, and learning to flourish with a little help from those around you.
Gifted gardener Henna embarks from her island home to search for the plant that might save her papa’s life in this vibrant story of love, grief, and growth.
- Candlewick Press
- March 2023
- 384 Pages
“Very appealing and rich with touching moments alongside innocent adventure. Readers will become friends with Henna and share in her growth while being thoroughly entertained.” —School Library Journal (starred review)
“Quiet exposition gives way to a page-turning final half.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The tale is an appealing blend of quirky, magical, and deeply heartfelt, with characters who unflinchingly face friendship, grief and loss.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Humor and a suspenseful adventure balance the sensitive, aching exploration of loss.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Issues of disability accessibility, gender identity, and grief and loss figure heavily, yet naturally, in the intertwined storylines.” —The Horn Book
“Henna’s is an endearing and compassionate tale in a richly rendered, slightly fantastical world with skillfully crafted story lines around conservation, sacrifices, and grief.” —Booklist
“The Girl from Earth’s End is a lushly written, heart-filling story about deep-rooted family, sprouting friendship, and flowering understanding.” —Rajani LaRocca, author of the Newbery Honor Book Red, White, and Whole
“Dairman at her best and most lyrical. Words sparkle and grow on every page. Readers won’t soon forget this book.” —Ingrid Law, author of the Newbery Honor Book Savvy
“This book is a masterpiece. The Girl from Earth’s End will transport you to a different world—one where you’ll laugh, cry . . . and won’t want to leave.” —Ann Braden, award-winning author of The Benefits of Being an Octopus
“Dairman conjures a marvelous world and backstory.”—The Buffalo News
The Orange Boat doesn’t carry oranges anymore.
It hasn’t for years, not since the last citrus grove in the Gardenia Isles shut down. It also isn’t orange, which we might reasonably expect a vessel called the Orange Boat to be. might reasonably expect a vessel called the Orange Boat to be. Maybe it was once; it’s hard to find someone around here who remembers that far back. Because what the Orange Boat is is old. Old and faded, slapped by the sea and whipped by hurricanes and ground down by bits of coral so its wooden bones show through, old and brown and bowed.
Still, it creaks along from island to island. A full circuit of the Gardenias takes a month, so that’s twelve tie-ups a year at every port from the bustling capital of Santa Vida to the slimmest spit of sand. If someone lives there, the Orange Boat stops in. But where it used to collect the harvest (oranges, of course, plus limes, grapefruits, the odd pomelo), now it delivers letters, sacks of grain, flower seeds from the latest Windover catalog.
It delivers the Gardenia Gazette (though by the time it reaches the end of the line, the news is weeks out of date).
And one time, it delivered Henna.
Her name wasn’t Henna yet; Papa Niall and Papa Joaquim would give that to her later. On the Orange Boat, she was just a baby, bald and with cheeks so round it looked like they’d been stuffed with a walnut shell each. She was quiet, too—quiet enough that Manol, the captain, didn’t notice her bassinet-box nestled between a barrel of buttermilk and a parcel of newspapers until they were well out to sea, with no question of turning back.
Luckily, Manol had a baby of his own back in Santa Vida and knew a thing or two about keeping one alive. He soaked crackers for her in the buttermilk, mashed up fish, and fed her sips of fresh water from his own captain’s stores. Whoever had left her had thought to include extra cloths for diapering, and Manol thanked the sea-saints that she wasn’t too wiggly when he changed them on the boat’s pitching deck. Mostly, though, she slept, rocked by the ocean waves. The days passed, and Manol grew rather used to her company.
Still, when they reached the island she was destined for (EARTH”S END, OUTER ISLES had been stamped in blue ink on her bassinet-box), Manol left her napping on the pier with the other deliveries and didn’t linger. He was eager to get home to see his own little one before starting his circuit again. Plus, it was his longstanding policy never to start a conversation about the contents of anyone’s mail.
He glanced back, though, as he returned the Orange Boat to the surf, and saw with relief that the child wouldn’t be alone for long. Joaquim Correira—one of the island’s two residents— was pushing a wheelbarrow down to the dock, an old fishing ditty on his lips, with no idea how completely his life was about to change.
The two men who lived at Earth’s End could hardly have appeared more different. Joaquim had a bulky build and a rich brown complexion, while slender Niall’s white skin freckled in the sun. Niall kept his gray-white hair short, while Joaquim’s black hair reached down his back in a ponytail. Niall’s eyes, the blue-green of seawater, contrasted with the earthy brown of Joaquim’s. And Joaquim had the deeper voice . . . well, most of the time.
“How could this have happened?” The words squeaked out of Joaquim’s mouth. He was back up the hill now, home again with Niall, though getting there had been no easy feat. He’d needed to make two barrow trips: one with the baby (who’d woken by then and started to scream), and another with the packages. Now his whole afternoon was behind schedule. Dinner would be late, and Joaquim hated when things were late.
But the baby didn’t seem to care. She was quiet now that Niall had given her a wooden canary to play with. He’d started a new art project recently, carving and painting models of the many bird species that called the Gardenia Isles home. This bird’s best feature was its bright yellow head, which the baby was sucking on vigorously as she rolled around with it on the woven rug (another project of Niall’s).
Joaquim paced the room. “It makes no sense. The only deliveries we get are for items we’ve specifically ordered and paid for. And neither of us ordered a baby.”
“Of course not,” Niall agreed.
“Who with a baby would even have our address?” Joaquim continued. “No one ever visits. We’re a three-hour sail from our nearest neighbor.”
“After all, the whole point of our moving here was to be away from the rest of the world . . .”
Joaquim stopped, midpace. “You’re being awfully quiet, Niall. Do you know something?”
Niall took a deep breath. “Well . . . it’s possible that I have one idea of how this could have happened. Just an inkling, really. Probably erroneous. But . . . hand me a newspaper, will you?”
“The Gazette?” Joaquim reached for the bundle that had arrived on the Orange Boat. Niall pulled a paper from the stack and turned to the paid advertisements in the back.
“Hmm,” he said. “now that I read it this way…”
“Read what? What way?”
With some reluctance, Niall handed the paper to Joaquim and pointed to a boxed ad in the middle of the page. He’d been running an ad in the Gazette for months, advertising art pieces he had for sale. But this time, there were a few lines of text at the bottom that Joaquim hadn’t seen before
Got unneeded odds and ends
That deserve a new life?
Send them on the Orange Boat to:
Artist in residence
Earth’s End, Outer Isles
I’ll take anything!
“Oh, Niall.” The newspaper slipped from Joaquim’s grasp to the floor. “Sweet Niall. I love you. But . . . ‘anything’? That was, perhaps, not the best choice of words.”
“Come now,” Niall scoffed. “I meant, you know, old horseshoes and the like! Things I could melt down or tear up and use in my art. I never imagined anyone would read the ad and send me a child. Does ‘do not send children’ really need to be spelled out in an ad like this?”
A crinkling sound rose from the floor. The baby had snatched up the fallen newspaper and was trying to stuff it in her mouth. Joaquim crouched to pull it away, but her grip was surprisingly strong. He pulled again, and the page ripped in two. Triumphant, the baby shoved her piece through her wet lips, smearing ink all over her face and hands.
“She’s hungry,” Niall observed.
“She’s filthy,” Joaquim muttered. He dug the newspaper out of the girl’s mouth with a finger, which made her start wailing. The sound gave him a fresh set of heart palpitations. Finally, he scooped the crying child off the floor and held her out to Niall at arm’s length. “Well, congratulations, Mr. Artist in Residence. Or should I call you Papa instead?”
Niall reached for the baby—but she squirmed, forcing Joaquim to pull her close to his own chest. And with her small body pressed against his, funny things started to happen. His heartbeat slowed. His breathing deepened. She laid her head on him and clung to his shirt with her hands, spotting it with newsprint, and suddenly the weight of her wasn’t the burden it had felt like when he’d pushed her uphill from the dock.
Joaquim sank back onto the couch close to Niall, overcome this time with the exact opposite of panic.
Niall kissed Joaquim on the cheek. “Don’t worry about what to call me,” he said, smiling. “It’s this little one who’ll need a name.”