In a deal that dramatically increases its size, Toronto-based House of Anansi Press has reached a preliminary agreement to acquire the children's book publisher Groundwood Books from Douglas and McIntyre. The deal, which is for a combination of cash and Anansi stock, gives Anansi a well-known children's division to complement its adult publishing program. Groundwood has about 600 titles, and the acquisition will more than double the sales of Anansi while boosting its staff from nine people to about 20.

Groundwood, which will continue to be led by Patsy Aldana, is best known in the U.S. for the Breadwinner trilogy by Deborah Ellis. Approximately half of Groundwood's sales come from the U.S., where it is distributed by Publishers Group West. Sarah MacLachlan, president of Anansi, said Groundwood's penetration of the American market would enhance Anansi's overall efforts to publish more titles for the entire North American market. "We'll be keeping more of our rights," MacLachlan said. Its current hot titles include The Short History of Progress, which has sold 50,000 copies since its fall release.

Anansi was acquired in 2002 by Canadian industrialist Scott Griffin and Anansi management after its parent company, General Publishing, went bankrupt. The company will publish about 25 adult titles in 2005, and a similar number under the Groundwood imprint.