Monday, April 5, 2010

The Magic School Bus and The Climate Challenge

By Joanna Cole, illustrated by Bruce Degen

Scholastic Press, 2010

$16.99, ages 9-12. 48 pages

No one brings children into science quite like Ms. Frizzle and her latest ride around the globe is an eye-opening journey for children just learning about global warming.

In this fact-packed picture book, Ms. Frizzle decides her old earth sciences book is too dated for her students to use and loads her class into the flying school bus to see what's changed in the planet's health since the book was published.

While flying over Earth, the class observes ice melting, sea levels rising, farmlands drying out, and animals being pushed out of their homes, and compares these images to pictures in Frizzle's book from when she was 9. By trip's end, the class not only understands what's going on, but learns how to slow warming and rally others to use less energy.

Best Parts: To explain how gases in the atmosphere can make Earth warmer, Ms. Frizzle instructs the class to jump out of the bus onto slides of sunbeams.

As the sunbeams gently land on Earth, they warm the soil, causing heat to rise. The heat then pushes the kids back up into the sky until they bump into greenhouse gases and are sent earthward again to make the ground even hotter.

An important clarification accompanies the image: greenhouses gases aren't all bad -- Earth would freeze up without some -- but because so many fossil fuels are being burned, too many gases are backing up in the atmosphere.

Other highlights include the Magic School Bus morphing into a hybrid vehicle near the end of the book and a comparison of the amount of CO2 each person contributes annually to the weight of 8 hippos.

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