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FOR KIDS : Ms. Frizzle Makes a Visit : A workshop will feature popular 'Magic Bus' books that present scientific information in a fun way.


Barbara De Maria was searching for books to help Pascal, her 5-year-old son, understand the surgery that his little brother faced for a congenital heart defect when she came upon "The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body."

The book gave Pascal, now 7, his first perspective on the operation and turned him into a collector of the "Magic School Bus" books, of which there are now five.

"What's nice is that the books have grown with him. Each time he reads one of the books, he picks up on different things," De Maria says. "They are fun for the kids to read."

The element of fun is one reason that Darlene Daniel, owner of Pages bookstore in Tarzana, chose "The Magic School Bus" series for a Feb. 27 workshop for 5- to 9-year-olds. The books have "such a fun way of getting across scientific information. It seemed perfect to feature at a party," she says.

The books, first published in 1986, are about a science class led by an eccentric teacher named Ms. Frizzle, who takes her students on wildly exotic field trips in a magic school bus. Besides entering the human body, the children have been "At the Waterworks," "Inside the Earth," "Lost in the Solar System" and "On the Ocean Floor."

More than 5 million of the books are in print, and they often appear on the children's best-seller lists in Publishers Weekly, according to Scholastic Inc., publisher of the series.

Daniel says the books are popular because of their "adventure and fantasy features, the outrageousness of Ms. Frizzle and the comments the children make throughout the book."

They are written by Joanna Cole and illustrated by Bruce Degen in a mild comic-book style, which allows for plenty of activity besides the narrative. For example, the child can choose to read a science report or the characters' thoughts, which appear in bubbles above their heads.

At the workshop, a storyteller will impersonate Ms. Frizzle in a custom dress and wig provided by the publisher. Ms. Frizzle, also known as preschool teacher Diana Deutsch, will read from "Lost in the Solar System" and "Inside the Earth."

The children will take their own Magic School Bus trip by reading a chart that calculates human weight on various planets, playing a game to see how many words can be made out of a certain scientific term and taking a "non-competitive scientific trivia quiz" led by Ms. Frizzle, which means that she'll ask the children questions based on the books they've just heard, and the children will be able to shout out the answers, Daniel says.

They will also decorate rocks to use as paperweights, which ties in with the "Inside the Earth" and "On the Ocean Floor" books.

Before the morning's over, the children will try their hand at fashion design when they use their crayons and markers to create a dress to add to Ms. Frizzle's always interesting wardrobe.

Ms. Frizzle would have been at home in the '60s with her anything-goes clothes. In the "Magic School Bus" books, her second-to-the-last outfit features a design that provides a clue to the subject of the next book in the series, Daniel says. (Based on the Frizz's shirtwaist dress in "On the Ocean Floor," the class can probably expect to plunk down next in the Dinosaur Age.)

The "Magic School Bus" workshops are in keeping with Pages' philosophy of getting children actively involved with books. Two summers ago, Pages staged a workshop on quilting as a way to draw children into exploring history, she says.

"We see it as bringing literature to life."

Where and When What: "The Magic School Bus" workshop/party for 5- to 9-year-olds. Location: Pages, 18399 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. Hours: 11 a.m. Feb. 27. Price: $3 registration fee, which can be applied toward purchase of books from the series. Space is limited. Call: (818) 342-6657.

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