Thursday, November 02, 2006


Special Report: Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen

Ahhh, the eternal grooviness that is the Magic School Bus. I'm tellin' ya, other quasi-psychedelic nonfiction book series come and go, but the Bus is here to stay, man. Would you believe that it's been 20 years since the first book came out? Anyhow, the co-creators of Ms. Frizzle and her class of kids came to town last weekend, and I hopped on down to the Carnegie Lecture Hall to see 'em.

Okay, before I get started on the report, I really need to share this memory:

When I was in high school, a lady who I knew from church was in charge of her local elementary school's book fair, and needed some people to dress up in the picture book character costumes that Scholastic had sent along with the rest of the promotional material. Because she knew that I was (a) a drama dork at my school, and (b) skint, she offered me a good $30 to spend an afternoon dressed as Ms. Frizzle. So, off I went to spend a few hours in a polyester octopus-print dress and a big red wig, and it would have been pretty uneventful, except that the guy who had been hired to wear the Curious George costume kept hitting on me the entire time. This included coming up from behind and grabbing my waist, frequently when I was in the middle of talking to a bunch of kids, and asking me sly, suggestive questions that I couldn't quite understand, owing to the fact that he was wearing a giant monkey mask. At the end of the afternoon, I discovered that the Man Behind the George was a kinda-cute German exchange student with an eyebrow ring (something that was considered a bit more risque in 1994 than it is now). Needless to say, I haven't been able to look at Curious George in quite the same way ever since.

But I digress. On with the lecture report!

Truth be told, this was not the most interesting lecture in the world. But here's the run-down:

  1. Degen and Cole work very closely on their projects, which is something unique in the childlit world. (This is something that, alas, few people know.)
  2. Degen likes to hide characatures of himself and Cole in the books -- making me want to go check them all out and go hunting.
  3. The next Magic School Bus book will be about global warming -- an announcement that caused the entire audience to break into applause. Yay, doomsday!
  4. They read their latest book, The Magic School Bus and the Science Fair Expedition, and the most interesting thing I found out from it was that Marie Curie's notebooks are so highly radioactive that they have to be kept in a special radium-proof case. (Wow, I'd love to see the archivist in charge of that.)
  5. At the end of the lecture, Degen drew silly dinosaurs on a big sketchpad using suggestions from the kids in the audience. Such as a Bananasaurus Rex, a TriCerealBox, and a Divasaurus. It was definitely the best part of the lecture -- and gave me some very nice flashbacks to The Mickey Mouse Show reruns I used to watch. Good job, guys!
And dare I mention what a cute guy Bruce Degen is? You know, in that Burl Ives kind of way. Sweet!

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