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An Interview with Patricia Aldana

Many have asked about our imprint, Aldana Libros, which connects kids with books from around the world. Read on for a candid interview with the imprint's founder, the legendary publisher, Patricia Aldana.

Tell us about your Greystone Kids imprint, Aldana Libros. What kinds of books are you most excited about publishing?

Some of the most exciting, unique, different stories can now be found outside the publishing mainstream. Around the world, the quality of children’s books has in many ways outstripped that of the production of the mainstream. The books I would like to publish tell the kind of stories that aren’t often found on the lists of the highly commercialized, multi-national publishers. I am so lucky, thanks to my relationship with the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), to travel all over the place and find gems. We will not survive as a planet if we don’t learn to know and love people and worlds different from our own. I hope these books will open windows for kids who live in the English-speaking world.

The Moose of Ewenki is the first Aldana Libros book to publish this fall. What drew you to this story about an Indigenous Mongolian elder and his young moose friend?

When I saw the book on the China stand at the Bologna Book Fair I was immediately struck by how it looked. It’s a beautiful book about a very interesting group of people—the Reindeer Ewenki people. Then when I realized it was by Gerelchimeg Blackcrane—whom I had previously published at Groundwood—and read the story, I was delighted. It’s a great story, about an incredible animal and a very special man, very moving, but without a trace of anthropomorphism.

You visited Blackcrane at his home in Inner Mongolia. What was that like?

Blackcrane is an activist defending the traditional way of life of the people of Inner Mongolia as well as a very successful children’s author. What a privilege it was to visit him. He is an exceptional man. He is two meters tall, for one thing. He is joyous, and infectious in his love for the dogs and horses, and the people of Mongolia. He made me ride a horse––something I hadn’t done in decades––so I could see the grasslands from his perspective. He introduced me to the magical shepherd dogs that he breeds to give away to Inner Mongolian farmers. He is very knowledgeable about Mongolian culture. 

Tell us about the special relationship between the elder, Gree Shek, and the moose in The Moose of Ewenki.

The moose chooses Gree Shek. And Gree Shek does everything he can to honour their relationship while protecting him and trying to ensure that he can live his proper moose life.

Why is this story important to tell now?

Because the traditional lives of hunter-gatherers and minority populations and the environment in which they live are under extreme threat around the world, from Brazil to the Pacific Islands to Canada, the US, Namibia, Botswana––everywhere. These people, their animal companions, and their natural world should be respected, admired, protected, and allowed to exist on their own terms, for their own sake. But it’s also true that if we cannot protect them we will also be failing to protect ourselves and this beautiful planet.

Patricia Aldana is the founder and former publisher of Groundwood Books. Most recently, Aldana created the World Library for China’s largest kids’ publishing company, CCPPG. In 2010, Aldana received the Order of Canada for her work in children’s publishing.

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