by Joanna Cole
Illustrated by Bruce Degen
Reviewed by Michael J. Mehl
It's hurricane season and Ms. Frizzle's science class is going to make a field trip to the weather station. The kids are ready. All week, they've been studying the weather, learning and writing reports about the atmosphere, temperature variations, the cause of wind, why it rains, and all of the other things science classes usually discover about the weather. Of course, readers of Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen's The Magic School Bus series know that this won't be an ordinary field trip, because Ms. Frizzle is, well, different (and it isn't just the weird clothes she wears). As for the school bus, if it doesn't fall apart it will get the kids to the weather station and back. But first, it has to fly the class through the eye of a hurricane. This is a job for a Magic school bus.
Inside a Hurricane is the seventh book in The Magic School Bus series. Cole and Degen have used the series' popularity to spin off a PBS TV show, computer games, and books based on the TV show, but the original books are the best of the lot. In a typical book, Ms. Frizzle, her pet lizard Liz, and a highly mutable old school bus transport a class of third grade science students into a rather improbable adventure. This time the kids are learning about the weather, so the Friz turns the bus into a plane, and they fly into the eye of a hurricane. As usual, Arnold ("I knew I should have stayed home today") has a few problems. While the kids are skydiving through the hurricane's eye, he misses the bus (most people would say he always misses the bus). Fortunately, he's rescued by a passing fishing boat. Don't worry, Ms. Frizzle will find him before the hurricane hits. In the meantime, the rest of the kids will learn a lot about the weather, with an emphasis on hurricanes. Most of the scientific facts in the article show up as student reports, small handwritten pages that are drawn to look as though they are glued to the page. Other facts are written into the story, as when Ms. Frizzle tells the class "The eye wall is the fiercest part of the hurricane." Of course, spoilsports Arnold and Pheobe ("at my old school only Dorothy was caught in a tornado") would have preferred that the bus wasn't flying into the eye wall at the time.
Inside a Hurricane is a fun way to give kids a lot of facts about the weather. And, for the parent who can't separate fact from magic, there is a letter page, where kids point out all the impossible things in the book. If there is a down side to the books, it is that the book is just a recitation of facts. There isn't a lot of encouragement for children to go out and learn more about the subject. In this regard, the books based on the TV series are a better, as they usually have ideas for further study. Of course, the hunt for more information can be stimulated by an adult. All in all, this is a great introduction to the study of the weather.
Those who enjoy the series will want to know that Ms. Frizzle is wearing a beekeeper's hat at the end of the book. Get out your entomology texts, class.
Author: Joanna Cole Illustrator: Bruce Degen Title: The Magic School Bus Inside A Hurricane Publisher: Scholastic Inc., New York, 1995 ISBN: List Price: $14.95
Scholastic Inc.'s Magic School Bus Page
© 1996 by Michael J. Mehl
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