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To Find a Frog be a Frog: Joanna Cole
“Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy!”(“Joanna” 1). This is exactly what author Joanna Cole did in her life. This phrase is often said by one of Cole’s most cherished characters, Ms. Frizzle, from the series “The Magic School Bus.” Joanna Cole has inspired many young people to learn about science and the world around them by using fun and laughter.
Joanna Cole was born on August 11, 1944, in Newark, New Jersey to the parents of Mario and Elizabeth Basilea. When she was in the fifth grade, Cole discovered that she had a passion for explaining things and writing reports. Her teachers were her inspirations for writing those reports and she says they may have also inspired her to write later in life (“Joanna” 1). Cole attended the University of Massachusetts, Indiana University, and finally received her bachelor’s degree from City College of New York (“Joanna Cole” 1).
Cole’s first book was Cockroaches. She received the inspiration from an article she had read in the Wall Street Journal; Cole had never seen a book written about these fascinating creatures, so she decided to write one herself (“EBMA’s” 2). After her writing career was off to a start Cole met and married Philip A. Cole and had a daughter named Rachel Elizabeth (“EBMA’s” 3).
“The Magic School Bus” is the most famous of all of Cole’s works. The series is comprised of 40 books with a spin-off series that added six more (“Joanna Cole” 5-7). The idea for the series came from a teacher of Cole’s who would bring a student to the front of the class once a week to do a science experiment. Cole always wanted to be that student (“Joanna” 1). Critics received the series with open arms. Katherine Bouton, a New York Times reviewer, had this to say:
Just as 'Sesame Street' revolutionized the teaching of letters and numbers by making it so entertaining that children had no idea they were actually learning something, so the 'Magic School Bus' books make science so much fun that the information is almost incidental. This is the freshest, most amusing approach to science for children that I've seen (2).
And the critics were right; the series skyrocketed and became some of the best selling books of all time. The books did so well in fact that when Joanna Cole was approached about doing a television show; she could not refuse. The television show was one of the highest rated on PBS. It was clear that Joanna Cole had found her calling and her signature work. (“Joanna Cole” 12)
Joanna Cole was not always an author; she spent time as a teacher, a librarian, and an editor. It was while she was a teacher that she had her first book Cockroaches published. For Cole this was fairly simple, the first publisher she approached refused to publish her book, however when she approached the second publisher, they saw the brilliance and soon her career was off to a great start. Once she started writing, she could not stop. She had always wanted to write, even as a child. She continued to work and write books which was very stressful on Cole (“EBMA’s” 2-4).
Joanna Cole is a brilliant author with humble beginnings, she has changed the way young children view their world and science. Many people, however, overlook her large accomplishments, due to her methods. Consequently, her methods have worked well. Children have used her fun and comedy to learn. That was in fact Joanna Cole’s ultimate goal. To not only help children learn, but to help them love to learn. She shot for the moon and landed among the stars. In the words of Ms. Frizzle, “If you keep an open mind, you never know who might walk in!”, and Joanna Cole has walked into the hearts and minds of young people everywhere (“Joanna” 1).
“EBMA’s Top 100 Authors.” 10 October 2010.
“Joanna Cole.” 1996-2010. 10 October 2010.
“Joanna Cole Biography.” 2010. 10 October 2010.