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"The Magic School Bus" Author Joanna Cole Has Died

Cole died on Sunday of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. She was 75.

Posted on July 16, 2020, at 11:11 a.m. ET

Joanna Cole's headshot
Annabelle Helms / Via Courtesy Scholastic

Joanna Cole, author of the beloved book series The Magic School Bus and other children's books, has died at 75.

Publishing company Scholastic announced Cole's death in a statement Wednesday. She died on Sunday of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, AP reported.

Cole created the Magic School Bus series in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen, after the publisher's senior editorial director Craig Walker kept getting requests from teachers for children's books about science, according to AP.

The Magic School Bus follows elementary school teacher Ms. Valerie Frizzle and her students as they go on field trips on a magic bus.

Dick Robinson, Scholastic's chair and CEO, said 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," Robinson said. "Her Ms. Frizzle led a group of eager and curious students on countless adventurous trips on the Magic School Bus — into the human body, hurricanes, the solar system, and everywhere imaginable."

Scholastic said the series has more than 93 million copies in print in 13 countries and has won a number of prestigious book awards.

The Magic School Bus was adapted into an equally beloved cartoon TV show that ran on PBS for 18 years, with Lily Tomlin playing Ms. Frizzle. In 2017, Netflix launched a reboot of the show with Kate McKinnon as Ms. Frizzle.

A live-action Magic School Bus movie starring Elizabeth Banks was announced last month.

Scholastic

Cole was born in New Jersey in 1944. As a child, she was particularly interested in science. She said Ms. Frizzle was like her fifth-grade teacher, who every week had a child conduct an experiment in front of the class.

"I always wanted to be that child," Cole said.

Cole graduated with a bachelor's in psychology from the City College of New York, and later went on to become an elementary school teacher, librarian, children's book editor, and then a writer.

"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?" she said. "Then I try to answer the question as I write the book."

Many mourned the news of Cole's death on social media with memories of how the series shaped their love for science.

Rest In Peace Joanna Cole, creator of the Magic School Bus series 🥺❤️ this series was my childhood, thank you for existing

RIP to Joanna Cole, creator of the Magic School Bus books. You were an integral part of fostering my love of science and curiosity about the world. Thank you for my childhood wonder.

I was a #PBS kid. Wishbone and Magic School bus were my Jam. Being an introverted Ms. Frizzle is still a #lifegoal. Thank you, Joanna Cole for creating a series of books that birthed a show. Both which caught my imagination over and over again.

Cole lived in Sioux City, Iowa, in her later years. She is survived by her husband Phil, her daughter, her son-in-law, her grandchildren, and her sister Virginia McBride.

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