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STOCKTON — Christian Espinoza noticed something was missing from the books he was reading to his students.
He also saw an opportunity to do things differently.
Espinoza, who for years worked as a tutor and as Applied Behavior Analysis therapist helping elementary school students with autism, read children’s books on a nearly daily basis and noticed his students weren’t represented in books.
“It would be nice to write something that is a little more relevant and with characters that look more like the kids that I work with,” said Espinoza, a 2008 Franklin High School alum.
So he did just that. “The Other Side,” written by Espinoza with illustrations by John DePianto from the Bay Area, is a children’s picture book about a boy named Bikó and a tribal chief who tries to convince his village to build a wall to protect them from an unseen “monster.”
Bikó, who doesn’t understand why the village hates the monster, decides to venture beyond the wall to find out the truth about the creature everyone fears.
“The wall was the perfect symbolism for it,” he said. “When it comes to differences and fear, the first thing we want to do is build a fence between the things we don’t like and the things we don’t understand.”
Espinoza, who is a special education teacher at Aspire Apex Academy in Stockton, said the book also depicts a character who is poor to represent the children around the world who are living in poverty.
As an educator, Espinoza has been able to read “The Other Side” to dozens of students, and he said the kids seem to enjoy it and pick up on the messages in the book. He hopes the book encourages children to ponder the themes of fear, impressions, friendship and bravery.
To drum up attention for the book, Espinoza partnered with the Empresso Coffeehouse off West March Lane for an art installation highlighting DePianto’s whimsical drawings from the book.
Juan Espino, a night manager at Empresso, said this is the first time the coffee shop has collaborated with an author on an art instillation, but it’s been a positive experience.
Patrons who visit Empresso, 1231 W. March Lane, are greeted to the bright playful images of Bikó and other characters from the book, and are encouraged to follow the links provided to get more information.
“The Other Side” is available as an e-book in English and Spanish. It can be purchased online through Amazon, iBooks, Google Play Books and other online platforms. People can follow Christian Espinoza’s work on Instagram at @ViewMultimedia.