The famed author died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis on Sunday

By Nicholas Rice
July 16, 2020 09:20 AM
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Joseph Merrell/Scholastic Inc; Nelvana/Courtesy Everett Collection

Joanna Cole, author of The Magic School Bus children's book series, died on Sunday. She was 75.

Her death was announced by her publisher, Scholastic, who shared that she died from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, according to the Associated Press.

"Joanna Cole had the perfect touch for blending science and story," Scholastic Chairman and CEO Dick Robinson said in a statement obtained by the publication on Wednesday. "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."

Her iconic book series centers on Ms. Valerie Frizzle — an eccentric and adventurous teacher — who takes her students on wild escapades in their titular school bus where they embark on various journeys to learn more about science.

Cole's collection of books was later turned into a PBS animated series which ran from 1994 to 1997, with Lily Tomlin lending her voice to Ms. Frizzle.

The Magic School Bus
Nelvana/Everett

Per AP, the idea for The Magic School Bus series came about in the mid-1980s after Scholastic Senior Editorial Director Craig Walker kept receiving requests from teachers to create books about science.

Admiring Cole's previous work in literature, Walker brought her in alongside illustrator Bruce Degen to craft the series that would eventually go on to sell millions of copies.

"I think for Joanna the excitement was always in the idea. What? Why? How?” Degen said in a statement. "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.”

Before her death, Cole teamed up with Degen once more and recently completed The Magic School Bus Explores Human Evolution, a new book scheduled to come out later this year in December, according to Barnes & Noble.

Elizabeth Banks Cast as Ms. Frizzle
Nelvana/Courtesy Everett Collection; Rachel Murray/Getty Images

A Magic School Bus feature film was announced last month, with Elizabeth Banks set to star as Frizzle, marking the first big-screen adaptation in the franchise's 26-year history.

Bank's company, Brownstone Productions, will develop the film along with Marc Platt Productions, Universal Pictures, and Scholastic Entertainment.

“We are delighted to bring to life the iconic Ms. Frizzle and her zest for knowledge and adventure in a fresh new way that inspires the next generation of kids to explore science and supports the dedicated teachers who help make science real and accessible for young learners every day,” Scholastic Entertainment producer Iole Lucchese previously said in a statement.

RELATED VIDEO: Elizabeth Banks Cast as Ms. Frizzle in The Magic School Bus Live-Action Film

In 2017, Netflix premiered a sequel to the series, The Magic School Bus: Rides Againwhich featured Kate McKinnon as the voice of teacher Fiona Frizzle — sister to Valerie Frizzle.

The series engaged in the same comedic mayhem and science education as the original ’90s series.