Thursday, February 05, 2009

Books: The Magic School Bus

Educational books aimed at children tend to be hit-or-miss. Most of them either get too technical (a surefire way to bore or confuse a kid) or simplify the subject matter too much (meaning that the child doesn't really learn anything). "The Magic School Bus" series of science picture books, written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, strikes a happy medium. In each book, Ms. Frizzle and her class of students take a seemingly impossible field trip in their school bus - through the center of the Earth, or deep under the ocean.

The debut book of the series, "The Magic School Bus At The Waterworks," takes one of the blandest, most boring parts of elementary school science (the water cycle) and actually makes it nominally interesting. Once the series turned to science subjects that kids are actually interested in, like the Solar System and the human body, it became a huge hit that spawned a popular PBS cartoon.

One of our assignments in elementary school was to create our own "Magic School Bus" book. Even after all these years, I remember my take on the series - "The Magic School Bus Explores Asia." I had Ms. Frizzle's class explore everything from the Great Wall of China to the Himalayas. More geography than science, yes, but such nuances are lost on seven year olds.


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