Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

Joanna Cole

Joanna Cole is the creator of Ms. Frizzle – and in one way, the two are alike. Both women share a passion for science, learning, and explaining new things. But Joanna Cole doesn't wear ladybug earrings, nor ketchup bottles on her shoes. She is an avid reader and researcher who writes about science in a way that is both understandable and entertaining for her young audience. The Magic School Bus was the perfect opportunity to combine two of her favorite things: science and humor.

Before The Magic School Bus, Joanna Cole worked as an elementary school teacher, librarian, children's book editor, and writer. She was already the successful author of nearly 100 children's books. Then one day, she sat down to a new assignment and wrote the following words, "Our class really has bad luck. This year, we got Ms. Frizzle, the strangest teacher in school. We don't mind her strange dresses or her strange shoes. It's the way she acts that really gets us."

Bruce Degen

After studying art in high school, college, and graduate school, the time came for Bruce Degen to decide how he would earn a living as an artist. "You don't see many people walking around a gallery and chuckling," he says. "And I realized that I wanted a chuckle. You can do a painting, and it might end up being on somebody's wall, but if you do a book, it goes out to the world."

It is Bruce Degen's clever hand that brings The Magic School Bus to visual life. He stylized Ms. Frizzle's wacky shoes and outrageous dresses. He formatted the books horizontally to include the multiple layers of Cole's text. Yet long before the blockbuster series, Degen had already illustrated popular books such as Jamberry, Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?, and Commander Toad in Space. Degen's own sense of humor and subtle jokes add a playful quality to all of the books he illustrates.


An Exclusive Interview
Watch the video clips


Reading Rockets' David Meissner interviewed the co-creators of The Magic School Bus. Both Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen talked about how they work together on books, how The Magic School Bus evolved, and why they were pleased with how the TV series turned out. Click on the links below to learn more about this talented author-illustrator team.


The Story Behind The Magic School Bus

When an editor at Scholastic Press wanted science books that were fun for children, he called Joanna Cole. Cole had written well-researched science books as well as wacky fiction stories. When Cole combined these two styles, the result was a nontraditional manuscript layered with word balloons, school reports, and jokes on sticky notes. The story was about an eccentric teacher named Ms. Frizzle who led her class on a magical field trip.

The editor called upon Bruce Degen to make visual sense of this complex book idea. Degen, a talented and versatile illustrator with a good sense of humor, suggested ways to fit the school reports, jokes, and dialogue into an engaging picture book. The result of Cole and Degen's first collaboration was The Magic School Bus at the Waterworks, published in 1986. It received rave reviews from children, teachers, and the educational community.

Since that time, The Magic School Bus has become a household name and a nationwide phenomenon. The series has made science fun and accessible to an entire generation of elementary school students. It has provided teachers with high-quality, entertaining science books that children can't wait to read. TheMagic School Bus is why second graders can clearly explain the process of evaporation. The Magic School Bus is how a six year old knows that there are nutrients in his bloodstream.

Seventeen years after their first book, Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen continue to research new subjects and create new books. The success of The Magic School Bus books led to an animated television series that further popularized Ms. Frizzle and company. Most recently, Cole and Degen have begun a new social studies series called Ms. Frizzle's Adventures.



Some Books by Joanna Cole
Anna Banana: 101 Jump Rope Rhymes
Anna Banana: 101 Jump Rope Rhymes

Jump rope rhymes do more than keep the rhythm; they’re often silly and just plain fun! Familiar and not so familiar rhymes are presented here with humorous line drawings to get and keep readers counting, maintaining a rhythm, and enjoying the game.

buy at amazon

Hungry, Hungry Sharks
Hungry, Hungry Sharks

Well-chosen information about these ancient and ever-interesting predators is presented in an easily accessible format. Text is clearly written and accompanied by dramatic illustrations to depict different kinds of sharks and their habits.

buy at amazon

The New Baby at Your House
The New Baby at Your House

How does an older sibling respond to and feel about the inevitable changes when a baby joins a family? Straightforward text and crisp, full-color photographs present many aspects of a new baby – including diapers and other not-so-often discussed issues – while reassuring the older sibling of his or her continued place in a loving family.

buy at amazon



Some Books by Bruce Degen
Commander Toad in Space
Commander Toad in Space

Sort-of-serious illustrations are perfect for this comical parody of familiar science fiction films. The brave commander of the Star Warts spacecraft is a Toad who saves his ship from the dangers of a watery planet and its resident monster, Deep Wader.

buy at amazon

Jamberry
Jamberry

A pot-bellied bear and a boy with an unruly mop of hair fill the pages of this playful, rhyming frolic as boy and bear look for berries of all sorts. The language is as bouncy as the detailed and energetic illustrations, making this a perfect read aloud.

buy at amazon

Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?
Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?

Jesse Bear starts his day by putting on a red shirt, but later wears sunlight, bubbles and more. Jaunty rhymes and effervescent illustrations present the child-like bear’s lively and engaging romp until it’s nighttime and Jesse Bear is in his pajamas.

buy at amazon



Books by This Author

The Magic School Bus in the Time of the Dinosaurs

Illustrated by: Bruce Degen
Age Level: 6-9

Everyone's favorite science teacher is back as Ms. Frizzle takes her class on a journey into the Mesozoic Era. The Magic School Bus becomes a time machine, giving the students a first-hand look at many dinosaurs and the eras in which they lived. The text and illustrations are blended in this amazing fact and trivia-filled field trip to the past.