The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole

Take a Ride on The Magic School Bus: An Engaging and Educational Book Series for All Ages


Remember piling onto the big yellow school bus as a kid, not knowing where you were headed on your next field trip adventure? What if that school bus could transport you through time, inside the human body, into outer space or even transform you into bees or salmon? That’s exactly what happens in the delightful and clever book series ”The Magic School Bus” by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen.

The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole

You can find The Magic School Bus by Joanna Cole on your favorite bookstore, including and Amazon UK.

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About author Joanna Cole

Joanna Cole

Joanna Cole is a prolific and award-winning American writer and author best known for her magic school bus series of children’s books. With over 93 published titles to her name, Joanna has delighted young readers for over 30 years with her unique blend of science, magic, and adventure.

Born in 1944 in Newark, New Jersey, Joanna grew up surrounded by books and developed a passion for writing from an early age. She studied psychology, sociology and anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis, where she graduated summa cum laude in 1966. Shortly after graduating, Joanna began working as an elementary school teacher, using her classroom experience to hone her writing craft and better understand what engages young minds.

In 1985, Joanna began her iconic Magic School Bus series after being approached by editor Craig Walker who wanted to create a new science-themed series for children. Pairing Joanna’s writing talents with illustrator Bruce Degen, The Magic School Bus was born. The wild success of the series can be attributed to Joanna’s skill at fusing real scientific facts with wacky humor and adventures. Joanna has a knack for tackling complex concepts, from the human digestive system to the solar system, in a way that is both educational and entertaining for young readers.

Over the three decades and counting of the Magic School Bus series, Joanna has garnered many prestigious awards. These include being honored by the National Science Teacher Association and winning two Emmy awards for her work on the Magic School Bus television series. The show and books have also earned her three Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.

Outside of the Magic School Bus books, Joanna has also authored several other popular children’s book series over the years. These include the Sprinkle Knough series, the Time Warp Trio series and the Gertrude and Toby series – garnering her critical praise and introducing even more young readers to Joanna’s whimsical and educational style of writing.

Now a mother and grandmother herself, Joanna Cole continues to be passionate about using books and media to make science exciting and accessible for a new generation of young learners. Her undeniable talent, work ethic and unique authorial voice have cemented her place as one of the most popular and influential children’s authors of the modern era. Nearly four decades since the first Magic School Bus book, Joanna’s stories continue to capture young imaginations and foster a lifelong love of reading – ensuring her legacy for years to come.

A Revolutionary Book Series That Makes Science Fun

First published in 1986, ”The Magic School Bus” broke new ground with its innovative concept to teach science to young readers through the entertaining fictional adventures of the eccentric teacher Ms. Frizzle and her quirky class of students. Like a high-tech Doctor Who, Ms. Frizzle transforms the old yellow school bus into a magical vehicle that can transport the kids into the worlds of atoms, underwater ecosystems, storm clouds and even the Solar System itself.

Each book follows the same formula:

  • A science question or topic is introduced
  • The class goes on a field trip in the Magic School Bus to explore the topic first-hand
  • An adventurous journey full of comedy and excitement takes place
  • Science concepts are clearly explained along the way using analogies kids can relate to
  • The class summarizes all they learned when safely back at school

It’s edutainment at its best that makes science unbelievably fun for kids of all ages. After all, who wouldn’t want to shrink down small as a bee and fly through a garden or become part of a hearty lasagne lunch sloshing about inside Ralphie’s digestive system?

Why This Book Series Works So Well

There are several key reasons why ”The Magic School Bus” series connects so well with young readers:

1. It takes boring science concepts and transforms them into thrilling adventures

Instead of a dry textbook lecture about the water cycle, the class explores the ups and downs of evaporation, condensation and precipitation by literally riding inside a rain cloud. Abstract science becomes hands-on experience.

2. The characters are quirky, flawed and relatable

From anxiety-prone Arnold to know-it-all Dorothy Ann, these kids all have distinct personalities that make them believably human. We get to see their wonder, fears and mistakes as they tackle each science quest. Ms. Frizzle herself is wacky yet wise, guiding rather than lecturing.

3. Vivid storytelling brings science to life

Through rich descriptions, humor and drama, natural phenomena like volcanoes and plant life cycles become riveting tales of exploration. These stories spark kids’ imaginations and make them excited to learn.

4. The illustrations are zany, detailed and fun to get lost in

Bruce Degen created brilliant artwork for this series that takes readers into micro and macro worlds with precision, clarity and visual wit. Kids will pore over the pictures again and again to take it all in.

5. Complex ideas are explained clearly using clever everyday analogies

Hard-to-grasp concepts like electricity, molecules and cloning are broken down using smart comparisons to things like circuits, baseball team lineups and photocopying a person. This makes the science go down easy.

Educational Value: Skills Learned from The Magic School Bus

While delivering an outrageously good time, the whimsical Magic School Bus stories also impart valuable skills:

Critical thinking

At each adventure’s end, Ms. Frizzle challenges her students to figure out, apply and summarize what they learned. This trains young minds in analytical reasoning essential for science inquiry.


The resourceful characters, inventive analogies and fantastical bus transformations fire up kids’ innovative thinking. There are no limits to imagining solutions.


During their trials and tribulations, the class learns to work together under pressure, understand group roles and celebrate diverse strengths.


When experiments go awry, which they often do, Ms. Frizzle’s students must tap their courage to handle mishaps and overcome problems. They learn it’s okay to make mistakes on the journey of discovery.

Why Read The Magic School Bus Books Today?

In our high-tech yet environmentally fragile world, ”The Magic School Bus” series is perhaps even more vital today to foster science literacy in future generations. These classics:

  • Inspire curiosity and wonder about the natural world – whether it’s the animals in a tidal pool or the weather itself.
  • Promote eco-awareness and care for the planet – by showing interdependence of ecosystems and effects of phenomena like pollution and climate change.
  • Encourage enthusiasm for science careers – from oceanographer to volcanologist, the kids interact with real-world experts in diverse fields.
  • Lay science foundations crucial for future innovation – understanding concepts like energy, chemistry and engineering empowers kids to solve tomorrow’s problems.

Most importantly, by making science personal, meaningful and story-driven, ”The Magic School Bus” gifts young readers life-long tools to imagine, analyze and overcome this world’s infinite wonders and challenges.

Five Must-Read Magic School Bus Books

With over 90 stories published to date, where should new readers start? Here are our 5 top picks:

1. The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body

This foundational book literally gets kids into biology by shrinking them down to cell size and taking them on a rollicking tour of the digestive, respiratory, circulatory and nervous systems. One of the most popular volumes of the series, its clever visual interpretations of red blood cells and brain signals are flat-out fun.

2. The Magic School Bus and the Electric Field Trip

A perfect primer for physics concepts, this adventure illuminates the mysteries of electricity as the kids learn its power firsthand by becoming part of an electrical circuit. Thrill along as they are zapped through wires, wall sockets and even a giant potato light bulb. Electrifying!

3. The Magic School Bus in the Time of Dinosaurs

What kid wouldn’t want to travel back 65 million years to the Late Cretaceous? This exciting episode explores paleontology basics from fossils to continental drift and brings to life giant predators like T. Rex as the class races to rescue the bus from a hungry raptor. Dino-riffic!

4. The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System

Blast off with Ms. Frizzle’s class on a genuinely epic interplanetary voyage covering astronomy heavy-hitters like solar winds, asteroids, satellites and more. Kids will have stars in their eyes as they rocket through space to rescue Arnold amidst amusing zero gravity hijinks. The planets have never been so fun!

5. The Magic School Bus Gets Recycled

In this very topical book, the gang learns all about conservation as they follow recyclables through the reprocessing cycle and get transformed into soda cans, milk jugs and even shredded paper. Brought to life with Degen’s trademark humor and detail, it’s a fresh way to view Earth’s precious resources. Reduce, reuse, recycle and read!

So let your imagination run wild and climb aboard The Magic School Bus. With chaotic humor, cutting-edge information and allegiance to real science, Cole’s award-winning books offer the most awesomely weird and wonderful reading adventures imaginable across the universe – all without leaving your seat!

Other Recommendations

Here are 10 further book recommendations for fans of The Magic School Bus:

  • The Wild Robot by Peter Brown is a middle grade novel about a robot named Roz who wakes up alone on a remote island with no memory of where she came from. As she tries to survive and understand her strange surroundings, Roz has curious and often funny adventures learning about nature, animals, and even friendship.
  • In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord tells the story of a young girl named Shirley who moves from China to Brooklyn in 1947. As Shirley struggles to learn English and adapt to her new home, she finds inspiration and courage from the legendary baseball player Jackie Robinson.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart is the first book in a popular series about a group of gifted children who must go undercover at a mysterious school and foil a global crisis masterminded by an evil genius. With mind-bending tests and adventures, this fast-paced and clever tale will appeal to analytical thinkers.
  • The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown continues the journey of robot Roz, who this time must venture into the unknown wilderness when her island home becomes too dangerous. Filled with fun characters and exploring ideas about survival, ecology, and technology, this sequel brings more of Roz’s heartwarming story.
  • Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert tells the powerful true story of teacher Annie Sullivan and her student Helen Keller, who was blind and deaf, through a vivid graphic novel format. With striking illustrations, this unique biography highlights the perseverance behind Helen’s inspirational journey.
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell is an engaging graphic memoir recounting the author’s childhood experiences wearing a large hearing aid she dubbed her “superpower,” as she navigates school and making friends. With humor and heart, this tale gives insight into deaf culture and celebrating differences.
  • The Astounding Broccoli Boy by Frank Cottrell Boyce features Rory Rooney, who suddenly turns green and gains superhuman powers. As Rory tries to understand these bizarre changes while also dealing with school bullies, this witty sci-fi adventure explores courage, friendship, and finding the hero within.
  • The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor is an uplifting story about a boy with learning disabilities who shakes off bullying and tragedy through art and optimism. As Mason interacts with vibrant characters from his rural community, he teaches poignant lessons about overcoming hardship with heart.
  • The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill tells a beautifully captivating fable about an abandoned baby raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a tiny dragon. This magical tale explores chosen families while delivering an allegory about the power of love in fighting fear and oppression.
  • The Unteachables by Gordon Korman is a hilarious story following a notorious class of misfits, troublemakers and pranksters that no teacher can handle. When a new teacher is hired to teach the “Unteachables,” he uses unorthodox methods to try to connect with them in this witty novel about not judging people by their reputations.


What is The Magic School Bus book series about?

The Magic School Bus is an award-winning series of children’s books that follows the adventures of Ms. Frizzle and her elementary school students. Through magical field trips onboard their school bus, the class explores science topics ranging from the human body to space in fun and imaginative ways. Alongside the popular original book series there have also been adaptations into an animated TV series, video games, apps and more.

How many books are there in The Magic School Bus series?

There are over 50 books in the original The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole which explored science concepts in fields ranging from oceanography to archaeology. Since the debut of the first Magic School Bus title in 1986, new books and reissues of classics in the series continue to be published even to this day.

What age group is The Magic School Bus book series for?

The Magic School Bus books are primarily aimed at children aged 5 to 10 years old, spanning a mid-primary school reading level. The engaging stories make science exciting and comprehensible for young readers while also promoting science education and literacy. Some parents may even find The Magic School Bus titles a useful learning resource to read with their children.

What literary awards has The Magic School Bus series won?

The Magic School Bus series has been honored with many major literary awards over its multi-decade span. These have included being named on the ALA Notable Children’s Book list, winning the American Bookseller Pick of the Lists award and receiving the NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book award four consecutive years.

Is The Magic School Bus only about science?

While science is the major educational focus, the charm of The Magic School Bus series is how it brings in elements of humor, adventure and engaging characters too. Underlying lessons in leadership, teamwork, resourcefulness and critical thinking skills are woven in with the science facts.

Who is the main character in The Magic School Bus?

The main human character is Ms. Frizzle, an eccentric teacher who takes her students on magical field trips. However, one could argue the iconic yellow and green Magic School Bus itself, which magically transforms for their mini-adventures, is the star. Supporting child characters include students like Arnold, Dorothy Ann, Carlos, Keesha and more.

Why does The Magic School Bus transform into different things?

The Magic School Bus’ ability to shapeshift into all sorts of vehicles, objects and even animals or human bodies helps immerse Ms Frizzle’s students directly into the science topic. By adventuring inside environments like the arctic, volcano or human digestive system, the class can personally observe the concepts rather than just reading textbook descriptions.

Is there a TV show and are there movies based on The Magic School Bus?

Yes, the popular Magic School Bus TV series originally aired on PBS from 1994 to 1997. There was also a Netflix reboot series The Magic School Bus Rides Again released in 2017 and a related film titled The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System.

Where can I buy The Magic School Bus books or other merchandise?

The Magic School Bus books, DVDs, toys and other products are widely available from major retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Many Scholastic Book Fairs that visit elementary schools also carry Magic School Bus books, notebooks, experiments kits and more for purchase.

What new Magic School Bus book releases are coming up?

Upcoming new books set in the Magic School Bus universe include The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution releasing December 2023. A 6-book box set The Magic School Bus Science Experiments Workbook is also slated for July 2024 featuring science activities related to concepts from the book series.

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