Remembering Joanna Cole, The Award-Winning Author Of The Magic School Bus

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Award-winning US author Joanna Cole, best known for her The Magic School Bus series, has died at the age of 75. Her publisher announced that she died last Sunday, July 12th. According to reportsthe cause was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, a disease that leads to irreversible lung scarring.

Early Life

Cole was born in New Jersey, in the year 1944. As a child she loved science, and her passion continued into adulthood. She graduated from the City College of New York, and worked as a children’s librarian and a magazine editor for some time. Cole also worked as a children’s book editor before she became a full-time author herself. Her first title, published in 1971, was Cockroaches. Her other later titles include The Clown Arounds, Bony-Legs and Best Loved Folktales of the World.

The Magic School Bus Series

Cole’s humour and inventiveness attracted Scholastic senior editorial director Craig Walker. And he selected Cole and illustrator Bruce Degan to bring this concept to life.

The core idea of The Magic School Bus was a sweet and nerdy crew of school children taking field trips in their magic bus, which would transport them everywhere, from underneath the oceans, to the Cretaceous period, or inside the human body. They were always led by their teacher, the fearless Ms Frizzle aka “The Frizz,” a character loosely based on Cole’s real-life fifth-grade science teacher. Perhaps the genius of Ms Frizzle, who has gone ahead to become one of the most famous characters from a children’s novel series, is that she is both the protagonist as well as the story’s antagonist. She is a benign villain who embarrasses the children with her abnormal behaviour, and risks their lives with her adventurous field trips. But she’s also fun and funny, and as good at explaining science as any real teacher could be.

Also Read: Women Authors Discuss How Writing Humour Is No Funny Business

Scholastic published the first book in 1986. Since then, The Magic School Bus series has sold tens of millions of copies. It has also won several awards. In 1994, there was an animated TV show made on the series. It was rebooted as a Netflix series in 2017, and production has begun on a live-action hybrid film starring Elizabeth Banks as The Frizz.

“In my science books, including The Magic School Bus books, I write about ideas, rather than just the facts. I try to ask a question, such as how do scientists guess what dinosaurs were like? Then I try to answer the question as I write the book,” Cole was once quoted saying. Before her death, she collaborated with the illustrator Bruce Degan for one last time to write a book: The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution. The publication date of the book has been set by Scholastic in the spring of 2021.

Love Pouring In

In a statement, longtime collaborator and The Magic School Bus illustrator Bruce Degan said: “I think for Joanna the excitement was always in the idea. What? Why? How? 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.”

“Joanna Cole had the perfect touch for blending science and story,” Scholastic Chairman and CEO Dick Robinson said in a statement Wednesday.

Also Read: Indian Author Kritika Pandey Wins Commonwealth Short Story Prize

Picture Credit: Flipboard

Dyuti Gupta is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.