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At Disney/Pixar’s request, Arizona author writes book based on ‘Coco’

Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford of Nogales co-authored with her son a book that accompanies the Disney/Pixar animated film "Coco." (Courtesy Photo)

PHOENIX — When Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford of Nogales, Arizona, got an email asking if she would be interested in writing a book for the Disney/Pixar animated film “Coco” last year, she thought it was a hoax.

“I forwarded the email to my son who knows a lot about computers, and I said, ‘Take a look at this because I think it’s a joke,’” Rivera-Ashford said. “He wrote back and said, ‘It’s not a joke, mom, you need to answer right away.’”

She responded and asked if she could co-write the book along with her son. They agreed.

Her book, “Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes,” was published last year just before the Academy Award-winning “Coco” was released.

The movie was inspired by the Day of the Dead, a Mexican holiday that celebrates the lives of loved ones who passed away. Friday marks the end of the two-day celebration.

Rivera-Ashford’s book includes some of the main characters in the movie, including Miguel, who is a young boy born into a family of shoemakers who aspires to be a musician. She also added elements from her own experience as a bilingual elementary school teacher.

“We use the classroom as part of the story, and in the classroom the teacher is teaching the children what alebrijes are,” Rivera-Ashford said. “Alebrijes are the spirit animals that connect us from here to the land of the dead.”

The book also includes monarch butterflies, which she said “signify the spirits of loved ones coming to visit.” She added that the teacher in the book is named after a dear friend who was also a teacher and passed away at a young age.

“Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes” isn’t the only book Rivera-Ashford is writing as a companion book for “Coco.” She has two more in the works, including one about Dante, the dog in the film.

Rivera-Ashford said her experience as an author who writes children’s books and understands the Mexican culture is what got Disney’s attention. She has written several books, including “Los Remedios de mi Tata” or “My Tata’s Remedies.”

“It was a tremendous honor, something that I never dreamed of,” she said about writing the book to accompany “Coco.”

The book is available at most retail and online booksellers.

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