Pastor and young parishioner collaborate on children's book

June 27, 2022

When Rev. Dr. Debra Hanson decided to write a book for children, she chose an expert on the subject as her collaborator: then 10-year-old Alexa Langs. 

The result is “Precious Pearlina,” written by Dr. Hanson and illustrated by Ms. Langs, which was published earlier this year. 
Pearlina is a little penguin who sees the good qualities in others but not in herself. This is the story of her discovery that she is indeed precious just as God made her.

Alexa is a member of First United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, NH, where Dr. Hanson serves as pastor. 
It was a conversation at church with Alexa’s mom that sparked the book idea.
“She and I were talking during fellowship, and she was saying how Alexa was having some struggles with how she felt about herself and some of the things going on at school,” Dr. Hanson said. “And I thought, you know, I’ve gone through that, I know what that's like, and so I started thinking … maybe there was a way to write a children's book that would help.”
“When I was little, I would try to make friends at school and they always kind of ran away from me like I was different. I never really made friends,” Alexa said. 
Now that she’s in middle school, things are different, she said, but it’s still not always easy. 
Dr. Hanson said she wanted Alexa and other kids like her “to learn that God loves them and that they didn't have to rely on other people's opinions in order to find value in themselves.”
Once they decided to work together on the book, it was up to Alexa to choose an animal to be the main character. She picked her favorite, the penguin.
The whole process took about two years. Once the story was written, Alexa began the illustrations. She started with pencil drawings that she outlined in Sharpie and colored in with artists markers. 
It was a “really long process,” Alexa said trailing off with a smile that expressed both joy and pride. 
She’s eager to share the book with other kids: “I think they’ll be really excited when they read the book, especially my friends; I’m sure they’ll be super excited to read it, and be like ‘oh, Alexa worked really hard on this. Good job.’”
Alexa definitely has one big fan. Her mom, Kellie, said: “I just love the book. I wish I had something like this when I was little.”

Dr. Hanson said she’s seen Alexa grow in confidence during the process of working on the book and through her involvement at First UMC, where she’s led worship as a liturgist. 
“It’s a little nerve-wracking … speaking in front of people is kind of a ‘whoa’ for me,” Alexa said. “I wish I could have the same level of confidence at school.”
Kellie Langs said she’s grateful for the support Alexa has received at church.
“God has become a real important part of Alexa’s life and is helping her through a lot of struggles,” she said. “When there's not a lot you that can bank on, you know, your church family and God, they're there for you.”

“Precious Pearlina”

The self-published book is available online at, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. 
To see Alexa and Debra’s favorite pictures from the book, watch this short video produced by First UMC.