"The Magic School Bus: At the Waterworks" is the first in a series of science picture books geared towards young ones. Written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen, it marks the debut of one of the most successful concepts in the history of children's literature.
Cole and Degen successfully blend fun and learning into their stories, striking a resonant chord with kids and parents alike. Because, let's face it, education - no matter what subject you're delving into - can be a tad boring at times. But anyone who's ever worked with children knows that adding a pinch of excitement and a smidgeon of enjoyment into the knowledge pot takes an otherwise bland topic and transforms it into something delectable.
"At the Waterworks" introduces us to Ms. Frizzle, a one-of-a-kind instructor who knows how to take seemingly uninspiring themes and metamorphose them into action-packed adventures. The kids in her class consider Ms. Frizzle "the strangest teacher in school." And they are less than enthused when they find out their first class trip is the local waterworks; it seems to pale in comparison to field trips other classes are taking, such as to the circus or to the zoo. But these students have obviously never gone on a class trip with Ms. Frizzle; nor have they ever taken a ride in her magic school bus.
Before they know it, Ms. Frizzle has sent them on a splashing journey. They learn all about the wonders of water; how it is the only substance in nature that can form into a solid, liquid or gas. They come to understand the water cycle; how water evaporates into a gas to form clouds and liquefies as it falls to the ground as rain. They even take a tour of the local waterworks; how water is filtered and purified for people to drink, and how it is distributed throughout the city in underground pipes to businesses and homes.
Needless to say, the children in Ms. Frizzle's class experience a once-in-a-lifetime voyage, one they won't ever forget! And for those "serious students who do not like any kidding around when it comes to science facts," the final pages distinguish what things were true in the story and what things were made up.
Cole and Degen hit the children's literacy jackpot with this series, and it all started with "At the Waterworks." This book was written in 1986, and the "Magic School Bus" is still riding strong - it has spawned numerous picture books, chapter books, a cartoon show, television tie-in books, computer games, etc. The key to its success lies in the fact that it mixes education with a hearty dose of humor and fun. And when you stir those ingredients together, you have a winning formula.
You cannot go wrong with Ms. Frizzle and her magic school bus. These books are so enjoyable, children and parents alike delight in them. I don't know why it took me so long to discover this series, but I'm glad it happened! I cannot say enough great things about it! Do yourself a favor and read a few of these stories; you will not regret it.
As Ms. Frizzle herself would say, "It's time to take chances! Make mistakes! And get messy!"