Tucsonans get the chance to meet local author who wrote 'Coco' book

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) As audiences around the world watch 12-year-old Miguel in the Land of the Dead on the big screen, families in Tucson get the chance to meet the local author who wrote another "Coco" adventure.

"They've been surreal," said author Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford. "Like magical, overwhelming, spectacular."

That's what the last few weeks have been like for the Nogales native. Rivera-Ashford and her son Aaron wrote a children's book for the Disney Pixar film "Coco." It's considered a companion book to accompany the movie, and includes some of the main characters. It's called "Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes."

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While the movie continues to be a worldwide hit, Rivera-Ashford is hosting a number of book signings in Southern Arizona including one at Guillermo's Double L Restaurant in Tucson Friday afternoon.

A number of people were lined up including Mayra Guillen Vargas and her two young daughters. 

"I loved it," Guillen Vargas said. "It was a really great movie for kids."

Guillen Vargas said she liked it because it was a good opportunity to teach kids about Mexican traditions and Día De Los Muertos. 

Rivera-Ashford's name may sound familiar. She has written a number of bilingual children's books including "My Tata's Remedies." It won multiple awards and Rivera-Ashford says it may have been the reason Disney approached her.

"When I got an email from them, from the Disney editor inviting me to be part of the project, I thought it was a hoax," Rivera-Ashford said. "And I actually sent my son an email and said like is this for real and should I respond? He said, 'it's for real mom and you need to respond like right away.'"

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Rivera-Ashford and her son got to see the movie last year when it was partially complete to get inspiration for the book. "Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes" is a story about an art project assigned to Miguel for Día De Los Muertos.

The teacher in the fictional book, Señora Sena, was actually based off of a dear friend of Rivera-Ashford who passed away from rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid cancer. Rivera-Ashford says her friend was a wonderful teacher and artist and she likes to use real experiences and real people in her books.
 
In the book, which takes place in Mexico, the students are instructed to use papier-mâché to make "alebrijes." At first, they don't know what alebrijes are. Alebrijes are colorful, mythical creatures in Mexican folk art and Rivera-Ashford says the point of the story is to learn about their historical and cultural significance.
 
"They're animals that have like a spirit sense and they're in the movie," Rivera-Ashford said. "And then they are sent on an adventure to learn about the animals in their community."

Rivera-Ashford grew up in a border town and spent decades teaching in Tucson. She says shes' happy to be sharing her culture and representing her community. In November she went to the Hollywood premiere of the film, which she called "beautiful" and "heartwarming."

She hopes that people who see the movie and read her companion book will see that no matter what language we speak or where we are from, we have a lot that connects us.

"I think everyone in the world that would see that movie could relate to it," Rivera-Ashford said. "Because we all have loved ones that we've lost and so this gives it a beautiful sense of remembering our loved ones." 

There will be another book signing on Saturday, December 16 from from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Guillermo's. It is located at 1830 S. 4th Avenue.

On Sunday, December 17 Rivera-Ashford will be at a signing from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m. at Rincon Market on 2513 E. 6th Street. 

The books available cost between $6 and $15. 

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