Philosophy professor publishes unique children’s book

Allison Stallberg/Guilfordian

A philosopher gathers, interprets and learns from the varied outlooks of the world. A writer uses pen and paper to communicate an outlook. Philosophy interprets life, while writing expresses it.

By crafting a heartwarming parable of perseverance in his new children’s book, “I Built my House on a Volcano,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy Joe Cole proves he embodies the traits of both philosophers and writers.

In 2009, Cole began crafting “I Built My House on a Volcano.” This September, the process finally came to fruition.

The newly published story is about an adventurer named Herman who finds himself drawn to Volcano Dorado. Though the villagers in the town below the volcano discourage him, Herman sets out to live on the volcano he so enjoys.

“The book is about living life to the fullest,” said Professor of Philosophy Nancy Daukas. “It’s about being willing to take risks to follow your dreams. I think that is how Cole aspires to live, and I think he succeeds.”

The trials Herman encounters in the story evolved from difficulties Cole faced himself.

“A few years ago, I was living in a cooperative community in Carrboro,” said Cole. “I was really passionate about living in a community that was sustainable, but they were meeting difficulties.”

Overcoming the tribulations of living in a co-op inspired the follow your dreams moral of Cole’s story, but the setting and expression of that idea came from another source.

While the ideas of the book were still forming, Cole traveled to Santorini, Greece, an island with a massive volcanic crater. When Cole saw Santorini citizens living around the crater, the image stuck with him.

“I kept thinking about how nice of a metaphor it was for community,” said Cole. “Then I realized it could apply as a parable to other parts of my life.”

The image of a volcanic crater paired beautifully with the concept of an individual overcoming their troubles. Over the next four years, Cole began to write and contribute to the book.

“I worked on the story for a couple of years before I decided to add the bilingual aspect to it,” said Cole. “That process coincided with my relationship with my wife, who is originally from Argentina.”

The second-language translation, combined with South American – inspired art by Stacye Leanza, added a deeper layer to the story, setting it apart from other children’s books.

“I think the bilingual aspect adds a great deal,” said Caroline McAlister, instructor of English and published children’s author. “Children are hardwired for learning languages, so a children’s book that introduces them to more than one language is a good thing.”

Though the book deals with larger themes, the focus on children complements its adventurous nature.

“Children have a much larger outlook on life,” said senior English major Ilari Pass. “They see things we forget about with age.”

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