NEW YORK – Author Joanna Cole, whose books on “Magic School Bus” transported millions of young people on extraordinary and educational adventures, has died at the age of 75.
Scholastic announced that Cole, a resident of Sioux City, Iowa, died on Sunday. The cause was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
“Joanna Cole had the perfect feel for mixing science and storytelling,” Scholastic President and CEO Dick Robinson said in a statement Wednesday. “Joanna’s books, filled with equal parts humor and information, made science both easy to understand and fun for hundreds of millions of children around the world who read her books and watched the award-winning television series.”
The idea for “The Magic School Bus” came in the mid-1980s. Scholastic senior editor Craig Walker often received requests from teachers for books on science and believed that a combination of stories and science would catch on. He brought with him Cole, whose humorous work as a children’s book “Cockroaches” he had admired, and illustrator Bruce Degen.
“I think for Joanna that the excitement was always in the tank. What? Why? How? “Degen said in a statement.” And with “The Magic School Bus”, it was how to explain it so that it is correct and in a form that a child can understand and use. And you can actually joke while you are learning. She had a rare sense of what could be humorous. “
With the ever-annoying but inspired Miss Frizzle leading her students on journeys that explored everything from the solar system to the underwater, “Magic School Bus” books have sold tens of millions of copies and were the basis for a popular animated TV series and a Netflix series.
Last month, plans were announced for a live-action film, starring Elizabeth Banks as Miss Frizzle – based on Cole’s middle school science teacher.
After hearing the news of Cole’s death, Banks wrote on Twitter that she “sent love to Joanna’s family.”
“These books have brought so much joy to children for so many years and I am so honored to be able to help me shine the light on the legendary Miss,” she said.
A number of young adults also praised their work on social media.
“I grew up believing that the earth was six thousand years old,” wrote one Twitter user. “Magic School Bus was my only window on real science, my tip that it may not be true.”
Many shared how Cole’s books encouraged an early love of science.
Others wrote how the adaptation of the TV series had helped them feel safe in an often frightening world.
“One last field trip. Thank you for all the adventures years ago,” added voice actor Michael A. Zekas.
Before Scholastic’s editor-in-chief Walker died in 2007, he had encouraged Cole and illustrator Degen to explore more “controversial topics” such as climate change, the author told PBS in a 2019 interview. Cole’s last book with Degen, “The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution” , will be published later this year.
Cole was a lifelong fan of science and was a native of Newark, New Jersey, and a graduate of New York City College who worked as a children’s librarian and newspaper editor before “The Magic School Bus.”
She is survived by her husband Phil; daughter Rachel Cole and her husband, John Helms; grandchildren, Annabelle and William and her sister Virginia McBride.