‘A Safe Place for Justin’

Ferndale author Leah Randolph will be sharing her story on inclusion

By Ashley Hiruko
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FERNDALE — When Leah Randolph, self-published children’s author, spent everyday working at a corporate job, she knew something was missing.

“It’s fast paced. It’s long hours and you are giving so much of yourself … and at the end of the day, for what?,” the 34-year-old Ferndale resident and Western Washington University education student said. After graduating with a degree in anthropology and years at her job, she decided to start over, this time working toward becoming a teacher. And she couldn’t be happier.

“I’m not one of those people who just always knew they wanted to be a teacher,” Randolph said. “People had been saying ‘I’d think you’d be a good one.’ It continues to feel like this is where I’m supposed to be and it’s really exciting.”

She has similar feelings of passion for her first children’s book, “A Safe Place for Justin.” On April 22, Village Books at Fairhaven in Bellingham will be hosting an event for the newly-published author beginning at 10:30 a.m. Randolph will be sharing her book and a very important message, she said.

“It’s not a story about spiders; it’s a story about open mindedness and inclusion,” she said. “Just because somebody looks different doesn’t mean they’re scary. It doesn’t mean you have to fear them. And so I think it’s a really great lesson for kids but also adults too.”

“A Safe Place for Justin” centers around a big, blue, indoor spider living inside a vacant house. It’s after a family moves in that Justin is shown compassion, a lesson Randolph is hoping to share with children and families through both her book and her teaching.

Randolph is two quarters away from beginning student teaching and has future plans of showing those who will eventually be adults to “look at the world in a way that is detailed oriented and inclusive, not being scared of what’s different and being open minded to try new things.”

“I think those kinds of views and those kinds of ways of looking at the world when you’re an adult definitely take hold as a kid,” Randolph said. “And I feel like if I want to make a difference in this world … I could make a difference in that capacity.”

The idea for the book came to Randolph in a dream. It took her a couple of days to do the initial writing, followed by editing and illustrations. It was publishing the book that took the longest.

Randolph visited a Barnes and Nobles bookstore and looked for books of similar length with similar illustrations. From those books she created a list of publishers to send a query letter to, along with a copy of her book. But no one agreed to publish the book.

Time went by and publishing “A Safe Place for Justin” got put on the back burner. Eventually she found another avenue to publish her book, self-publishing through Village Books. “I got excited because that was doable,” she said.

Now, Randolph is just hoping to spread the word and the message contained within Justin’s story. The book is dedicated to a longtime friend, Jenny, who became a non-related big sister for Randolph as she was growing up. Looking back at the book, Randolph said Jenny was the safeplace she wanted the spider Justin to find – the place she always had.

During the writing process, however, she said the book is drawn from a place of simply being nice to each other. A message she hopes will diminish bullying in schools.

“We form groups in terms of humans, based on who looks like me, who thinks like me, who dresses like me and any little difference is pointed out,” she said. Well it doesn’t have to be like that. And that’s pretty scary and pretty lonely for the kid who is being pointed at and not being included.”

Unlike her corporate days, now Randolph is assured she is giving something back to the community,