‘Magic School Bus’ Author Joanna Cole Dies at 75

Annabelle Helms/Scholastic via AP

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Author Joanna Cole, whose Magic School Bus books became a favorite for young readers, has died at the age of 75. Scholastic announced that Cole, who is a resident of Sioux City, Iowa, died on Sunday due to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

Through a statement, scholastic Chairman and CEO Dick Robinson stated, “Joanna Cole had the perfect touch for blending science and story. 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 was known for taking readers to educational and extraordinary adventures. The Magic School Bus series came out in the mid-1980s. Scholastic senior editorial director Craig Walker had received frequent requests from teachers for books about science and technology, thinking a combination of both and storytelling would be a hit. That’s when Cole decided to create The Magic School Bus book series in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degan.

The idea behind the nerdy and adorable crew of students taking several field trips into scientific concepts, the solar system, bodily parts, and back to the age of dinosaurs, spun out into dozens of tie-ins and more than 93 million copies in print. Let’s not forget about Ms. Frizzle who quickly became a fan favorite and is now considered one of the best characters to be created. The books eventually led to a television show that aired for 18 years in more than 100 countries.


In the United States, the original Magic School Bus TV series was broadcasted by PBS, an updated version was launched in 2017 on Netflix. Miss Frizzle was voiced by Lily Tolin, and then by Kate McKinnon in the Netflix series. There are also plans for a live-action movie, starring Elizabeth Banks as Ms. Frizzle, which was announced last month.

The children’s book has won many awards due to the popularity of them, including an NEA Foundation Award for Outstanding Service to Public Education. Cole was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1944 and was a lifelong fan of science, graduating from the City College of New York. She stated that the inspiration for Ms. Frizzle was from her own 5th-grade teacher. She worked answering letters to the editor at Newsweek, as a school librarian and as a magazine and children’s book editor before becoming a full-time author. Her first published work was Cockroaches, which was published in 1971. The beloved author is survived by her husband Phil, daughter Rachel Cole and her husband, John Helms, and her grandchildren Anabelle and William.


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