Goodbye, Magic School Bus Creator

Joanna Cole was 75
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 16, 2020 8:20 AM CDT

(Newser) – Sad news for fans of Ms. Frizzle: Joanna Cole, creator of the Magic School Bus series, has died. Publisher Scholastic says the 75-year-old died Sunday from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, the AP reports. Cole, a former school librarian and magazine editor who grew up in New Jersey, started writing children's books full time in 1980. She was chosen by Scholastic in the mid-'80s to create the educational series because her previous books (including her 1971 debut, Cockroaches) had blended science with humor. The beloved series of books—in which Ms. Frizzle took her class everywhere from outer space to the ocean floor to inside the human body—led to a TV series that ran on PBS for 18 years, starting in 1994. It was revived by Netflix in 2017.

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Cole, who wrote more than 250 books, said she based the intrepid Ms. Frizzle on her own fifth-grade teacher, NPR reports. "I think for Joanna the excitement was always in the idea. What? Why? How?" illustrator Bruce Degen said in a statement. "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." His final book with Cole, The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution, will be released next year. Scholastic announced last month that Elizabeth Banks will play Ms. Frizzle in a live-action film based on the series. (Read more author stories.)

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