Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How The Magic School Bus Books Come Alive

Based on the best-selling Scholastic book series written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, The Magic School Bus is an Emmy Award-winning animated television series that is seen in more than 39 countries and 16 languages. Now it's coming to life and zooming to The Orpheum stage this Saturday, January 28, as part of the Theatre's 2011-2012 Family Series.

This musical interpretation of the beloved book series focuses on one of the most important environmental issues facing the Earth today: climate change. However, how does a children's book address such a series issue like climate change with humor, fun, and even magic?  To find out, read the article below which is an in depth look from writer Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen, the creative forces behind The Magic School Bus.

Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen have collaborated for twenty years, bringing humor and true kidlike curiosity to science and learning. Booklist heralded Ms. Frizzle as “the wackiest, wisest teacher in picture books.” Two Magic School Bus titles have been named School Library Journal Best Books of the Year, and they have won countless state book awards, from New York to Nebraska.

Each The Magic School Bus book begins with in-depth research. Cole does extensive reading, visits museums, and talks with experts. Once she's collected enough information, the author synthesizes the facts into a dummy book with sketch ideas and text for the story, speech balloons, and school reports "written" by Ms. Frizzle's students. Cole also writes the jokes found in every book. Sometimes, a page in the dummy will have a layer of jokes, all on different colored Post-it™ notes. "Eventually when I go see my editor, if he doesn't laugh at the joke on top, I say, 'Let's see what else there is, and we peel them away until we find one that he laughs at," says Cole.

Once Cole has finished her dummy and it has been reviewed by a specialist, it's time for Degen to work on the illustrations. "I take out the dummy Joanna has prepared, I look at all the research books, I look at all the notes, and then I have a cup of coffee," jokes Degen. Next, Degen prepares series of sketches showing how every page of the book will look. The collaborative process really takes off when Degen meets Cole to discuss the sketches. They talk about the story line and decide whether the art works with the action and science in the story, all the while playing off of each other's imagination.

To continue reading, please click here.

Magic School Bus Live! The Climate Challenge is an official 2011-2012 Family Series Show. For more information or to purchase tickets, call (901) 525-3000 or go online at

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