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Aw, heck. What's not to like?
Posted by E. R. Bird on 12/22/2003
For those familiar with the "Magic Schoolbus" series, Mrs. Frizzle's adventures with her class all have a similar plotline. Mrs. Frizzle explains some scientific topic, whether it's the solar system, the dinosaurs, etc. and then lures her children onto her special schoolbus for an adventure. During the adventure the only child that is regularly singled out as the perpetual schlamatzel is Arnold, a boy who doesn't care much for adventures, thank you. In the end, the class is safe and has learned quite a lot, despite themselves. Even Arnold. Then there is a "letters" section in the back where readers wishing to complain about scientific inaccuracies (in this case, how dangerous it would be to be caught in a hurricane) are one-upped by already existing letters. The particular plotline in this hurricane obsessed book was not too dissimilar from the others, and was a lot of fun. I used to read these books to kids that I babysat back in my high school years, and certain types of children love them. The pages are always busy with text, speech bubbles, experiments that kids can do at home, and various factoids sprinkled hither and yon. I do wonder how long these series will last before it is regarded as hopelessly dated by the young. Please note that the review previous to my own was last written in 1997. Currently the show is doing well as a tv series, voiced by Lily Tomlin. Just the same, it would be very difficult to read this book to a group of kids. The books are relatively small and crammed with so much extra text that children will want to handle them one on one, rather than with a large group. Each book would pair well with a companion non-fiction book on the same topic.
Posted by Tami Prince on 1/4/2007
This is a great educational series. The kids don't even know they are learning.
Posted by Children's Book Review on 10/18/2004
Written in 1995, Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen's latest story begins where it ends - in Ms. Frizzle's classroom. And that's it. Nothing else happened. The Friz and her students simply went on a nice, leisurely field trip. They didn't end up miles beneath the earth's surface digging for rocks; nor did they travel to outer space to hitch a ride with a runaway comet; heck, they didn't even bother to travel backwards in time millions of years to observe ancient animal life.
End of review. Yes, that's correct. Ms. Frizzle has finally learned her lesson. The field trips she takes with her classroom of students are simply too wild, too wacky, too weird. How much did the children she instructs ever learn, anyhow?
But, of course, this reviewer is stretching the truth a little bit. True, the Friz's most recent field trip did begin and end inside her classroom. And, true, she didn't send her kids splashing through the local waterworks, or give them a guided tour inside the human body, or plunge them to the bottom of the ocean. So what did she do, you ask? All Ms. Frizzle accomplished was to drive through the eye of a hurricane, only to nearly get sent to the Land of Oz via a tornado. Oh, and one of her students - the ever-so-cautious Arnold - simply went on a high-seas adventure, battling wind, waves and surf with his trusted sidekick and faithful ally . . . a radio. And all of this happened before lunchtime in the school cafeteria!
Cole and Degen's seventh collaboration, "The Magic School Bus: Inside a Hurricane," is certainly eventful, if not downright ambitious. And it starts innocently enough.
"It's a perfect day for our field trip to the weather station!" the Friz exclaims. "We'll meet a team of weather forecasters. We'll learn all about our atmosphere!"
"We hadn't finished our experiments about air," writes one of the students in Ms. Frizzle's class, "but with Frizzie at the wheel, we were going - ready or not!"
Anyone who's familiar with Cole and Degen's work understands, recognizes and appreciates the delectable havoc that ensues. Because a field trip isn't just a field trip when it comes to the Friz. To "learn about our atmosphere," it is most preferable to head straight for the source!
The kids in Ms. Frizzle's class - especially hapless Arnold (and his trusted sidekick, faithful ally . . . a radio) - discover all kinds of interesting facts about our planet's weather patterns. For example, most of our weather takes place in the troposphere, the layer of air that is closest to the surface of the earth. The children learn that air has weight. Did you ever wonder why the air in your attic is always so stuffy, yet the air in your basement is usually so cool? Can you tell the difference between cirrus, stratus and cumulus clouds? Just how many droplets does it take to form one single raindrop? And that's just scratching the surface of what this well-researched, well-written, well-illustrated book has to offer. All this, and the Friz hasn't even tackled that hurricane yet!
One would think that after six acclaimed adventures, Cole and Degen would begin to run out of steam. But with "Inside a Hurricane," that is clearly not the case. The writing and illustrations are every bit as inspired as those in previous efforts. Once again, Cole and Degen manage to explain facets of meteorology that are, at once, both funny and easily understandable. Every page is brimming with facts about weather, along with a dollop of humorous sidekicks to boot.
There is something in this book for everyone. One random fact I wasn't aware of explained the connection between thunder, lightning and - get this - opening up a soft drink can! And did you know that faraway places such as Australia and India are susceptible to hurricanes? Most people only associate these hazardous storms with places like the tropics, Florida or the East Coast.
As is the custom with all tales about the Magic School Bus, the final pages distinguish what was fact in the book and what was made up for story purposes. And, always the clever duo, Cole and Degen hint at what is to come in Ms. Frizzle's newest expedition. The buzz surrounding the Friz's eighth escapade into parts unknown is already beginning. In fact, you could say it's un-bee-lievable!
As Ms. Frizzle herself would say, "Keep together, class!"