When Ms. Frizzle yells “Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!” she’s delivering some of the best advice ever put into a children’s book. In just six words, the zany science teacher celebrates the scientific method and encourages kids to live bold, brave lives.
Joanna Cole, the woman who wrote those words, died on Sunday at the age of 75. She created The Magic School Bus book series, which made all kinds of science, from anatomy to astronomy to physics, fun for kids to read about.
The books, which sold 93 million copies, launched a media franchise that included video games, television series, and an upcoming film. All in all, Cole’s contribution to elementary science education for the generations of kids who’ve read her work is on par with that of Bill Nye the Science Guy.
The Sioux City-based author wrote over 250 children’s books in her lifetime and received tons of awards over the course of her career. She passed away while working on a new Magic School Bus adventure, according to friend and collaborator Stephanie Calmenson.
“Losing Joanna, we lose the chance to share Ms. Frizzle’s latest science adventure with children, making them laugh and helping them better understand the world they live in,” she wrote.
Longtime collaborator Bruce Degen, who illustrated The Magic School Bus series, celebrated her skills as an author and her friendship.
“I think for Joanna the excitement was always in the idea. What? Why? How?” Degen said in a press release from Scholastic. “And with The Magic School Bus, it was how to explain it so that it is accurate and in a form that a kid can understand and use. And you can actually joke around while you are learning. She had a rare sense of what could be humorous.”
“What Joanna has meant to the world, what there is in the world because of her, is well known,” he continued. “What she meant to me I can’t describe. Everyone who knew her, worked with her, loved her, knows what a loss it is.”
The final installment of the series Cole worked on, The Magic School Buss Explores Human Evolution, will be published in the spring.