The Magic School Bus is a series of books and a television show that addresses science in a story format. This is important to me as I find science textbooks and non-fiction writing to be deadly dull (and my father is still upset about the C+ I earned in Earth Science as a high school freshman. Did I mention I got an A in phyics? No, he doesn't care about that.) Anyway, science stories are far more appealing to me. The MSB is set in a school classroom with a very enthusiastic teacher who is always taking her kids on fantastical fieldtrips to learn about science subjects on a bus that is able to do all sorts of amazing things -- so there is a strong dose of fantasy with regard to the trips they take. I'm not thrilled about the school setting, being a homeschooler, and some of the kids are a bit snotty, but its not too bad. The science covered in each book is interesting and digestible, at least to me.
There are several kinds of Magic School Bus books -- I believe the originals were simply books by Joanna Cole. Later, a series of television shows were made and there are some MSB books based on episodes of the show and not written by Joanna Cole. Being an anti-television snob, I automatically assumed I'd prefer the Joanna Cole books, those being 'pure' and not an adaptation of a TV show. Well, I actually prefer the adaptation book. The original Magic School Bus books are very distracting to me -- there is the text of the story, dialogue and thought bubbles within the illustrations, and 'school reports' on the sidelines. There is a lot to look at and read on each page and thats very unsettling to me. I think it might be appealing to the more kinesthetic learner because it allows the eye to jump all around the page whereas such a learner might find the more traditional picture book a bit boring. In the adaptation books, there is a lot less going on -- there is text and fewer thought/dialogue bubbles but there aren't reports sprinkled throughout, simply one report at the back of the book after the end of the story.
The MSB is expanding with different kinds of books. There are chapter books which we have not read because I think they might be too much for us. There are also readers which are simpler than the original series. The stories might be a bit too simple, but there are lots of little fact reports that give it some substance. I think my favorites are the TV adaptation books.
We have not seen any of the TV shows or videos. I don't think our PBS affliates carry the shows, I wouldn't mind seeing some, but I suspect Suzanne might be a bit young.