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'Snow Angel' author's wish granted with new picture book

By Carma Wadley

Deseret News

Published: Wednesday, June 29 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Two little girls get stuck in the snow and must call on the Snow Angels for help. That experience inspires them to become "angels" themselves and help others by doing such things as visiting lonely neighbors, making cookies and making quilts.

With drawings by best-selling illustrator Brandon Dorman, this is the story that Angel Randall tells in her debut picture book, "Snow Angels," which will be published by Shadow Mountain in September.

"We are always looking for a story that hasn't been told before," says Deseret Book's Chris Schoebinger, who has worked with Angel Randall on the project. "This is one." It's an inspiring little story, he says.

Equally inspiring is the story behind the book, and as with most stories, that one should begin at the beginning.

When Angel Randall was born, the whole town of Enterprise, Utah, was excited, says her mother, Colleen. After all, the family had just had six boys in a row, so a girl was particularly welcome. There were two other sons and four other daughters, making an even dozen in all. But when she was carrying her 13th child, Colleen attended a Young Woman's meeting, where she heard a story about a girl named Angel. "I knew that if this baby was a girl, that would be her name."

Growing up as the youngest of 13, Angel was surrounded by love.

"Although," she says, "I did get teased by my brothers a lot."

It was hectic; it was crazy at times; but it was also a lot of fun, she says. How many other families can have their own baseball team? And the Randalls did.

As the older children got married and started their own families, Angel ended up with 55 nieces and nephews.

"She has always loved children," says Colleen. That probably influenced Angel's career choice: teaching first grade. "I always wanted to be a teacher. My grandmother, who died when I was 11, was a teacher, and she inspires me. I think she's one of those angels looking down."

In a perfect world, someone who loves children that much would have a bundle of her own. But, for Angel, life would throw her a big, fat curve. In March of 2010, the single, 20-something teacher was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. She was given only a few months to live, but Angel wasn't ready to give up yet.

Plus, there was still a book to write.

There were and are trials.

"She's had three tumors removed," explains her father, Lavon. "She had to learn to walk all over again." She's been through chemotherapy. The prognosis is still uncertain, but there has been time to fulfill some dreams.

After a ward conference last year, Angel's bishop and stake president came to visit and asked if there was anything they could do.

"They asked me what my wishes were, and I told them I would like to meet a general authority, if that was possible," she says.

The church leaders arranged for a visit from Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve. And as he chatted with Angel, he asked her about her wishes.

"He was very personable," says Angel. "He asked about one of my dreams, and I told him I'd always wanted to write a children's book. He said, 'I think I can arrange that.' And a week later, I got a call from Chris."

She told him about her idea for a story about Snow Angels. "At first, I was worried they were just doing it because of my situation, but I had this story written in my head, and they liked it."

Schoebinger was impressed from the very first. "She is so genuine and so imaginative. She really has a gift for storytelling. I've been impressed with her ability, despite the obstacles, to put it all together."

When they approached Brandon Dorman about doing the illustrations, "he was totally committed. He read the story, and was so excited. He wanted to make sure it had her thumbprint in it." For example, they sent pictures of the Randall kitchen to Dorman, and he used that as the backdrop for the cooking scenes.

They also came up with the fun idea of putting a little bird in each scene as something for children to look for.

"Angel knows that the more you can engage their interest, the more you can teach children," says Schoebinger.

And then they decided to add the Randall recipe for angel cookies.

"There's really something that will delight everybody," says Schoebinger. "It's been a privilege to work with Angel. It's one of those things that I'll look back on in 20 years as one of those precious moments to remember. I feel like I've worked with angels, both figuratively and literally."

It's been exciting for the whole family, says Lavon. "To see her be able to do something she's always wanted to do has been gratifying."

It's been wonderful, adds Colleen. "She was basically given the time to focus, to write and think about something she's wanted to do. She has such an imagination, and such a love for books. It's been pleasing to watch her story come to life."

Even more, Colleen has been impressed by her daughter's character. "She has such a love for children, for all people. She still goes to the school to read to the kids, and they still come up and give her hugs. She has touched so many lives."

Angel is able to look at her situation and see blessings.

"I've been given new opportunities. I've felt that when I was typing the part about angels, that I was getting extra help," she says. She has drawn strength from a plaque that was given her that says, "In trying times, keep trying." Another favorite saying is: "When storms come down, dance in the rain."

That's what she wants to do, she says, simply keep dancing. Sometimes it has been hard, "but I've found a lot of comfort in prayer. I just know I can't give up."

The end of Angel's own story is as yet unwritten. But she faces her future with courage and grace. Whatever happens, she knows that in ways that matter her story will have a happy ending.

Email: carma@desnews.com

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