Joanna Cole, Author of ‘Magic School Bus’ Books, Dies at 75

Cole published the first “Magic School Bus” book in 1986

joanna cole
Reading Rockets/Scholastic

Joanna Cole, the author of the beloved “Magic School Bus” children’s book series, died Sunday, her publisher Scholastic Inc. told TheWrap. She was 75.

According to NBC, the cause of death was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

“Joanna Cole had the perfect touch for blending science and story,” Scholastic chairman and CEO Dick Robinson said in a statement. “Joanna’s books, packed with equal parts humor and information, made science both easy to understand and fun for the hundreds of millions of children around the world who read her books and watched the award-winning television series.”

Cole created “The Magic School Bus” in 1986 with illustrator Bruce Degen. The best-seller followed a crew of schoolchildren taking field trips exploring everything from the solar system to the underwater world, and the class was led by the frantic Ms. Frizzle.

There are 13 books in the original series, but the series eventually spun out into dozens of tie-ins that resulted in more than 93 million copies in print. A beloved television show was also created, which was broadcast on PBS for 18 years since 1994. In 2017, an updated version launched on Netflix with Lily Tomlin voicing Ms. Frizzle and Kate McKinnon voicing her younger sister. Recently, it was announced that Elizabeth Banks signed on to star as Ms. Frizzle in “The Magic School Bus” live-action film for Universal Pictures.

Cole was born in Newark, New Jersey, on August 11, 1944 and loved science as a child. She attended the University of Massachusetts and Indiana University, before graduating from the City College of New York with a B.A. in psychology.

She often said her inspiration for Ms. Frizzle was her own fifth grade teacher. Her first title as a full-time author was “Cockroaches” in 1971. She has written over 250 books.