March 30, 2006


Maya & Miguel: Papi Joins the Band; Mùsica, Maestro. By Tracey West. Illustrated by Jay Johnson. Scholastic. $3.99 each.

Maya & Miguel: Pet Store Pest. By Rama Moore. Illustrated by Jay Johnson. Scholastic. $4.99.

The Trollz BFFL Club. By Leslie Goldman. Scholastic. $7.99.

Aquamarine. By Alice Hoffman. Scholastic. $4.99.

     The quality of any book that ties to a TV program or movie ultimately depends on the underlying quality of the show or film.  No one buys tie-ins because of their innate interest.  So the Maya & Miguel books are strictly for fans of the PBS series about 10-year old Hispanic twins in a diverse neighborhood.  Papi Joins the Band and its Spanish version, Mùsica, Maestro – sold separately – are straightforward stories about the Santos family and Miguel’s carefully ethnically balanced friends: Theo, who is black, and Andy, who is white and has only one arm.  The books are about the insistence of the twins’ Papi on getting overly involved in Miguel’s new band – an involvement that, of course, turns out to be a good thing.  The message is a sort of multicultural version of what the Berenstain Bears used to deliver.  Young fans of the show – which targets ages 4-8 – will enjoy not only the narrative books but also the sticker storybook called Pet Store Pest.  The three dozen stickers are not for self-directed play but for inclusion in the story: the instructions say which sticker should go where (“place Tito and his soccer ball at the front door,” for example).  This may help young children feel a sense of participation in a Maya & Miguel story, but it gives the book no replay value or sense of creativity.

     The Trollz syndicated TV show is quite different from the multicultural, educationally oriented stories of Maya & Miguel.  Intended for girls ages 8-12, the Trollz show has a different sort of community orientation: the idea is that five girls with magical powers become friends and defend their community of Trollzopolis.  This is one of those toy-driven shows – or, in this case, mostly Web-driven, with a site where members can chat with each other and download songs.  The Trollz BFFL Club ties into all this with its acronymic title (“Best Friends for Life”) and a book that is part diary (a glittery pink pen is included), part quiz (“What kind of friend are you?”), part crafts project (beaded T-shirts), part cookbook (no-bake chocolate oatmeal friendship bars), and little bits of a few other things.  It’s fine for fanatical Trollz fans.

     Aquamarine ties into a movie, not a TV show – with the book and film both targeting pretty much the same audience as do the Trollz.  The book is a simple novelization of the Fox Studios film, which is about two 12-year-old girls, Hailey and Claire, who are spending a last summer together before Claire moves away.  Wouldn’t you know it?  A mermaid turns up in the pool at the rundown beach resort where the girls are vacationing – and of course they have to rescue her.  The mermaid herself – that would be Aquamarine – has her own problems: she is looking for love in all the wrong places, such as dry land.  Aquamarine is a more interesting character than the human friends: she has a temper and a sharp tongue.  The girls’ interaction with her leads to predictable complications and a happy ending.  The book is easy to read and fast-paced, and will make a nice souvenir for girls who really love the movie.

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