“Joanna Cole had the perfect touch for blending science and story,” Scholastic Chairman and CEO Dick Robinson said in a statement according to the Associated Press. “Joanna’s books, packed with equal parts humor and information, made science both easy to understand and fun for the hundreds of millions of children around the world who read her books and watched the award-winning television series.”
Cole, a former children’s librarian and magazine editor, was summoned by Scholastic’s senior editorial director Craig Walker in the 1980’s to write children’s books that focused on science. Cole collaborated with illustrator Bruce Degen and the first Magic School Bus book was born in 1985, according to the Daily Mail.
“I think for Joanna the excitement was always in the idea. What? Why? How?” Degen said in a statement to the AP. “And with The Magic School Bus it was how to explain it so that it is accurate and in a form that a kid can understand and use. And you can actually joke around while you are learning. She had a rare sense of what could be humorous.”
Cole was 75 years old.
The Magic School Bus was Rebooted on Netflix
Cole’s books inspired the popular 1990’s animated series of the same name and in 2017, the show was rebooted on Netflix, Deadline reported. The Magic School Bus Rides Again has Ms. Frizzle’s sister Fiona Frizzle, voiced by Kate McKinnon, leading the curious kids on different adventures to learn about science. The original series debuted in 1994 and aired for 18 years on PBS in over 100 countries, according to NPR.
In June 2020, it was announced that the science-themed series would be headed to the big screen. Variety reported that the television show would become a movie with Elizabeth Banks starring as Ms. Frizzle.
“We are delighted to bring to life the iconic Ms. Frizzle and her zest for knowledge and adventure in a fresh new way that inspires the next generation of kids to explore science and supports the dedicated teachers who help make science real and accessible for young learners every day,” Scholastic Entertainment’s president and chief strategy officer Iole Lucchese said in a statement according to Variety.
Before it was a TV hit, the books were best sellers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, The Magic School Bus books have sold over 93 million copies in 13 countries.
The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution Will be Released Spring 2021
The next installation of The Magic School Bus book series is due to be released next spring. When discussing the book with PBS in 2019, Cole said it was important for her to focus on evolution because “it is still at work today.”
“Not only are bacteria and viruses evolving to resist medicines, but humans are also evolving,” Cole said. “We evolve to adapt to the climate and the world around us. Studying evolution can help us understand the past, but it might also help us prepare for the future.”
In the book, Ms. Frizzle, who Cole said was inspired by her junior high school science teacher, will be taking the children on a trip back in time to meet their ancestors.
“This book starts with Arnold wishing he knew more about his family tree,” Cole continued. “Ms. Frizzle answers that wish by taking the kids back in time, to meet their very first ancestors. It starts 3.5 billion years ago, and brings them from simple cells to modern humans, with lots of amazing stops in between. It is the longest class trip ever!”
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