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The Magic School Bus Explores the Senses
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2004
In 1986, author Joanna Cole and illustrator Bruce Degen published their first book together. It was a story about a funky-cool teacher with frizzy-red hair, who led her class on the most extraordinary, in-depth, and out-of-this-world field trips like no instructor before her. The adventures of Ms. Frizzle and her students quickly became a hit with real-life children, parents and teachers alike. No one could have predicted the success that awaited Cole and Degen once "The Magic School Bus: At the Waterworks" hit the shelves.

Thirteen years and ten collaborations later, Cole and Degen wrote the final chapter to their long-running series. Appearing in 1999, "The Magic School Bus: Explores the Senses" was a bittersweet end to arguably one of the best ideas in the history of children's literature.

The tale begins, like all those before it, inside the Friz's classroom. Her students are learning all about the five senses: seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling. Notes one student, "We were even learning a song about the senses to sing at an important parent-teacher meeting."

There's a problem with this, however. Ms. Frizzle thinks the conference is tomorrow evening. But little does she know that for once in her life, she's wrong! Incredible though it may seem, the meeting between parents and teachers is actually that evening! At least, that's what Mr. Wilde, Walkerville Elementary's new assistant principal, claims. But because Mr. Wilde doesn't find out about this latest development until the end of the school day, he can't inform the Friz -- she's already left the building!

"I've got to catch up with Ms. Frizzle!" exclaims Mr. Wilde. And, to the students' surprise, he plops down behind the wheel of their bus. Knowing the kind of trouble a new assistant principal is likely to have, the students also climb aboard. It marks the first time anyone other than the Friz has driven the bus, and there's no telling what might happen!

As with every adventure in the "Magic School Bus" series, things get a little crazy in a very short amount of time. Mr. Wilde, in all his enthusiasm, fiddles with a switch he shouldn't touch and -- PRESTO! -- the bus shrinks until it's no bigger than a speck of dust.

Despite being in a rather sticky situation, all is not lost. Instead of fretting over the fix they're in, Mr. Wilde and the students decide to make the best of it. In fact, they turn the experience into a learning session, centered on all things about the five senses. This would include the different parts and functions of seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling. Before the adventure is done, Mr. Wilde and the students will have traveled through a police officer, a little boy, Ms. Frizzle herself(!), a dog, and a cat!

This book works on a number of levels. One such level, for example, is the symbolism in this final chapter of the series. Even though Ms. Frizzle is not with her students during their inside-story of a field trip, leading them along, feeding them tidbits of interesting information, they manage to hold their own just fine without her. In their first escapade together ("At the Waterworks"), the Friz was literally holding her students by the hand. In this book, however, she casts her class adrift so the children can figure things out on their own, a test they pass with flying colors. It's a sign of just how much they have grown under the instruction of Ms. Frizzle and her unusual (yet highly effective) teaching techniques.

It's a nice send-off to the series, instilling the message in children that, yes, eventually there won't be an adult around to point out every little thing. But don't worry! You will have learned so much during that time, you won't need someone to fulfill that duty. You will discover the beauty of independent thinking. And it ties in with one of the Friz's most basic principles: "Take chances! Make mistakes! And get messy!" The students, as well as readers of the book, are ready to move on, to grow, to take the next step.

Unlike the nine books that precede it, this story ends a little differently than all the rest. Yes, the pages that distinguish fact from fiction in the tale are still firmly in place. But the sly hints, the wily clues, pertaining to Ms. Frizzle's next great adventure are a mystery.

"Where will she take us next?" inquires Keesha, a student.

"That's the big question!" answers Arnold, a fellow student.

Thankfully, that "big question" is answerable. Because the "Magic School Bus" series became such a triumph, it's still riding strong almost 20 years later. There's a cartoon show, television tie-in books, chapter books, computer games, and a website, just to name a few things. There have even been card games, posters and plushie dolls!

The reason for its success is a simple one: it made learning fun. And when you combine those two ingredients, you've got a winning formula.

There just isn't enough that can be said about such a finely-crafted series. Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen have made the world of children's literature a better place because of the part they played in it. The adventures of the Friz and her students deserve a permanent home on bookshelves in classrooms, school libraries, and personal collections everywhere.

As Ms. Frizzle herself would say, "You never know where the Friz may go!"
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2002
My science-loving eight-year-old son really enjoys reading books from the Magic School Bus series, and the topic and plot line of this one engaged him as well. But early into the book, he was asking me about nearly every other word. When I looked more carefully, I realized the reading level was higher than other books he had read in the series and many of the facts were things I had learned in junior high. I decided to take over, reading the book to him and explaining many of the topics in more detail. Don't get me wrong -- he really enjoyed the book and learned some "cool" new things about the senses. It just wouldn't have made much sense without my involvement.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2008
I work with children aged 2-6 and when I am trying to get an idea of what level of information they will be comfortable with I always turn to Magic School Bus. The kids love the pictures and the Frizz. This book in particular is useful for the next 5 units we'll be teaching.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2002
This book is based on the television show the magic school bus, with Mrs. Frizzle. The book contains great factual illustrations for the reader. The students of Mrs. Frizzle's class are learning about the senses so they get into their magic school bus and shrink down, and go into a students nose and from there they continue to the other sensory organs. I like the format of this book because it is very active instead of reading from a textbook the children can get the same information but have fun while they are learning. I also like hands on activities and this is as close as hands on with a book as you can get. It also gives small science experiments and reports that the class has written for the child to read. The author has such great imagination and brings the fun back into learning science.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 5, 2012
I like these books, but they are more for fun. I purchased this particular one as a aid for our health class but it did not give as much information as I would like. I think the Magic School Bus shows are much more informative than the books, but that is just my opinion as a home school Mom. If you are home schooling and just want some aids for class they are good but I would look at the Children's Encyclopedia series if you are teaching your children and really want to get their attention. They are fantastic. I still love these and love to see that my children are reading these books..their layout is really appealing and they are still learning!!!
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This is a great, almost un American book in that kids are told that it's OK, even wonderful and wondrous to be science geeks, be curious. Love the Frizz when she says "take chances, get messy, make mistakes," and encourages her students to explore. In a society that elevates sports and violence for boys, and beauty and cattiness for girls, this series stands out for encouraging gender neutral intellectualism and academic achievement. My geeky 5 year old can't get enough, having finally found fictional characters that reflect her and encourage her. Factual substance-wise, I as a 40 year old have learned tons.
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on June 17, 2012
Our granddaughter, 5 1/2 years, loves the Magic School Bus series. She finds the in-depth exploration of the subjects (the senses in this book) fascinating. The books are packed full of facts about the subject and are written at a level 5 to 6 year-olds can easily understand and relate to. She will look at the pictures by herself after we finish reading the book to her. She especially liked the book about the senses as sight, sound, smell, touch and hearing are issues she easily experiences in her daily existence.
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on September 29, 2010
Love, love, love these books!!! We have been reading these books to my daughter since she was 3 years old because she is curious and asks questions about everything! Each book has great detail and information about the topic of that book. The characters make learning about science fun and exciting! Definitely not a bedtime book because the books generate even more questions from your child. Great way to encourage interest in science! My wife and I have even learned from reading these books to our daughter.
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on April 22, 2008
We read this as a reader but would be equally as good as a health or science book. My 8-year-old son really enjoys these books even though he does not care for the show. In this one the kids explore the 5 senses by shrinking the bus and entering several individuals to experience and discover. Of course there is an explanation of what is true and which part is fiction at the end. Recommended for ages 6-9 years and written on a [...] reading level.
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on April 28, 2014
My son loves "The Magic School Bus" series and I love them too because it combines both fiction and non-fiction. These books are very education and engaging for little kids. We usually borrow them from the library. This one is one of the harder ones out there and will require a lot of explaining on your part, still a great book, but probably more appropriate for a third grader and older.
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