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Remembering 'Magic School Bus' Creator Joanna Cole

NOEL KING, HOST:

For 18 years on PBS, the kids on "The Magic School Bus" went under the ocean, into space and inside the human body with their teacher, Ms. Frizzle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIDE ON THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS")

LILY TOMLIN: (As Ms. Frizzle) Seatbelts, everyone.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It all started in the imagination of one woman, Joanna Cole, who wrote "The Magic School Bus" book series and who died this week at the age of 75.

RACHEL COLE: She was funny. She was goofy and a sweet and generous person.

KING: That's Joanna's daughter, Rachel Cole. She says her mom brought that generosity to her work. She also brought a devotion to science.

COLE: My mother not only believed in science, she loved it. She found it fascinating and hopeful and joyful.

INSKEEP: Cole published her first children's book in 1971. It was about cockroaches, of course. To research, she kept a container of roaches in her apartment. Scientific method.

COLE: And one of them she became very fond of. Her name was Grace because her antenna were so graceful. And Grace became pregnant. Then, one day, the container tipped over, and the roaches ran out. And my mother couldn't bring herself to stomp on Grace, so she let her go, and then her apartment became infested with cockroaches.

KING: Kids could find that kind of empathy in her work, too. Cole's characters are diverse and curious.

COLE: She felt it was important for there to be kids in the books that kids reading the books would identify with. That was part of her kindness, too, is that she really empathized with her readers.

INSKEEP: Having had the experience with other books, she published her first "Magic School Bus" book in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RIDE ON THE MAGIC SCHOOL BUS")

LITTLE RICHARD: (Singing) Come on. Ride on the Magic School Bus.

(SOUNDBITE OF HORN HONKING)

INSKEEP: It was never a normal field trip - not with Ms. Frizzle, not with Joanna Cole. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.