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The Magic School Bus and the Climate Challenge



A hefty science lesson mixed with tips on taking action.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids get a comprehensive exploration of global warming, from defining climate and molecules to explaining why melting is accelerating and how electricity is generated. Complicated concepts are broken down into manageable pieces, and numbers are made more relatable by the use of solid comparisons.

Positive messages

Readers are challenged not to be passive, but to take concrete steps, small and large, to counter global warming.

Positive role models

Ms. Frizzle and her students fully immerse themselves in their lesson, with ample dialogue and tons of side material in the form of reports by students.

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this information-packed book explains the science behind global warming. It paints an alarming picture, but it arms children with knowledge and suggestions for concrete steps families and communities can take to reduce greenhouse gases.

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What's the story?

Ms. Frizzle’s class needs up-to-date information for their class play on global warming, so they climb aboard the morphing Magic School Bus for a wild ride around the Earth. They visit the melting Arctic ice cap, witness alarming changes in weather patterns and regional climates, and slide down sunbeams to help them understand the science. Then the students explore ways to combat global warming, including alternative energy and conservation. When they return to school, they begin taking steps to save energy and present their play, inspiring their school and town to join their efforts.

Is it any good?


Every corner of this fun book is crammed with fun details: funny asides, informational graphics, and brief reports presented as papers by students. The climate change lesson is a sobering, even frightening, one but “the Friz” and her class leave readers with a solid message of empowerment that probably will leave kids feeling more excited than worried. The science is well illustrated with engaging artwork and concrete comparisons: For example, the amount of carbon dioxide generated by Americans each year is equivalent to “eight hefty hippos” per person.

Parents might find it a bit busy to read together, but kids will enjoy unearthing facts and ideas tucked in every corner of the brightly illustrated pages. There’s a psychedelic touch to the book -- both the bus and Ms. Frizzle’s outfit sport ever-shifting Technicolor decorations (as the students learn about recycling, the Friz even sports cans on her high heels).

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about reducing energy use at home. What steps does your family already take to conserve energy? What more could you do?

  • Come up with a proposal for your school, community, or organization to save energy. Develop your idea and plan how to present -- and lobby for -- its approval.

Book details

Author:Joanna Cole
Illustrator:Bruce Degen
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Scholastic Press
Publication date:March 1, 2010
Number of pages:48
Publisher's recommended age(s):9 - 12

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