Patsy Aldana, founder of Toronto-based children’s publisher Groundwood Books, will step down from her role as the company’s co-publisher as of December 31. Sheila Barry, who joined Groundwood as co-publisher in January 2012, will then assume full responsibility as Groundwood’s publisher.

Barry told PW that she was hired as a part of a long-term succession plan, and it was always Aldana’s plan to step down from her role as co-publisher after they had worked together for a time. Aldana was not immediately available to comment about the new announcement, but she told PW when Barry joined Groundwood that her work as chair of the IBBY Foundation (the International Board on Books for Young People) and as co-founder of the National Reading Campaign, which is just launching in Canada this fall, frequently took her away from the office. She will remain involved with Groundwood as an editor on selected projects and as a member of the board of directors of Groundwood’s parent company House of Anansi Press. Aldana also intends to remain involved in publishing internationally.

Barry said she and Aldana had “gotten on incredibly well in the last nine months,” and that having a year-long transition was ideal. Nevertheless, the prospect of taking over from Aldana, who founded Groundwood 35 years ago, was still somewhat intimidating. “I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” she said. But, she added, “Patsy has been a remarkable and completely unique publisher in the kinds of books she has done, so I’m trying not to think too deeply about just what an act it is to follow her. “

Announcing the changes, Sarah MacLachlan, president of House of Anansi, said, “Patsy’s contribution to Groundwood and to children’s publishing internationally has been extraordinary. I have learned a huge amount from Patsy over the eight years that I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside her—she is a publisher of great intelligence and vision.”

Anansi owner Scott Griffin added, “She has an international reputation as a fearless publisher and a great champion both of the rights of children and the importance of reading.”

In the written announcement, Aldana said she has “great confidence in Sheila Barry’s judgement, strength and passion. She and Groundwood’s outstanding editorial team of Michael Solomon, Shelley Tanaka and Nan Froman will ensure that Groundwood Books continues into the future as a great Canadian publisher,” she said. “Groundwood authors and illustrators can be assured that Sheila will be their champion.”

Looking ahead, Barry said she is not planning any major shifts in the publishing program, which produces about 30 titles per year. She said she would like to make middle-grade and young adult graphic novel a consistent feature in the lists and that she is looking for some middle-grade series fiction with a literary bent.