Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Review: The Magic School Bus Hops Home

The Magic School Bus Hops Home: A Book About Animal Habitats by Joanna Cole
Illustrated by Bruce Degen

Ms. Frizzle is teaching her class about animal habitats. Wanda brings her pet bullfrog, Bella, to class and he escapes out the window! The students all take a field trip (and shrink down really small!) to different kinds of habitats to try and find Bella.

In my curriculum, instruction, and assessment class, I am creating a resource unit for 2nd graders on animal habitats. I am going to use this book in my unit as a way to introduce water habitats. If this were a real lesson, the students would create their own earthworm habitat with a mason jar, some dirt, and a worm after the story.

I used to watch The Magic School Bus on TV when I was little and you would really be surprised how many times this book/episode has been referenced in the last few years! And I'll never forget the theme song either! I always thought the episodes were so fun and entertaining, but I was also learning. The show had 4 seasons and 52 episodes and I'm pretty sure I saw most of them. Check out the episode below if you want a reminder of how fun it is. :)

While these books are educational and are fun ways to introduce topics to children, teachers must also remember that they have to supplement this with much more information for their students. Since it is completely unrealistic that the school bus and the students shrink, it's also important to make note to your students that this book has some elements of fantasy mixed in with the science. That's why I like on the second to last page of the book, there are "Letters from Our Readers (Editor's note: They will help you tell what is real and what is make-believe in this story.)" These are just funny little letters that also introduce more facts.
Dear Editor:
       Didn't you know that blue herons do not eat people? However, they do eat frogs, fish, salamanders, snakes, lizards, and shrimp.
                 Your Friend,
            You Can't Fool Me!
To Whom it May Concern:
       My school bus never shrinks to frog size, sprouts legs, and then hops through the woods!
            No Excitement in My Life
P.S. Now that I think of it, people can't shrink, either. For safety reasons, please tell your readers not to try sitting on a lily pad unless they are wearing approved flotation devices!

The illustrations in this book were done by Bruce Degen. The pages are full of color, edge to edge. Each illustration has so much detail as well. I think this is important when it is a book that is introducing science topics. The illustrations help depict what is going on in the text. The inclusion of speech bubbles helps as well. Characters talk to each other in the pictures or express emotions.

I thought it was great that the class is so diverse. There are students of all races represented in Ms. Frizzle's class. A multicultural classroom is very important for students to see. While I was looking at pictures of the book, I came across the French version of the book. I did some research and found out that as of the 25th Anniversary of the books, last year, there were 58 million Magic School Bus books in print and they have been translated into 10 different languages! While on the topic of numbers, the author of this article from USA Today mentions that "Zero Students lost by Ms. Frizzle on a field trip, giving new meaning to 'No Child Left Behind.'" -- Ba dum CH!

There is also an interactive website full of parent and teacher resources and games for students to play and learn about. The Traveling Magic School Bus is a cool resource that teachers can get to come to their school (for a fee, of course!).

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