A Friend’s Eye View
by Stephanie Calmenson
What I Want the World to Know About Joanna Cole:
In addition to her Magic School Bus books, Joanna created a significant and wide-ranging body of work. She’s been a forerunner on many fronts and has given children and families so much, from knowledge to belly laughs. She has written about sex, missing teeth, bullies, being a sibling, ill-mannered monsters, a family of Clown-Arounds, cars, cats, dogs, frogs, fleas, horses, sharks, cockroaches, and more. Her Best-Loved Folk Tales of the World and A New Treasury of Children’s Poetry, both published in the early 1980’s, are to this day among the best collections of their kind.
Before beginning to write, Joanna researched deeply. She read every book and periodical on a subject, talked to the experts, and visited the sites. Working on Cockroaches, her very first book, Joanna decided that in addition to her usual research, she had to raise cockroaches to observe them closely. She got to observe them way more closely than planned when they overran her New York City apartment. When it came to research, Joanna never cut corners. Researching was her joy.
Joanna worked and played well with others.
Scholastic editor Craig Walker had the great vision to bring in the incomparable artist Bruce Degen as illustrator of the Magic School Bus books. The world has seen the result. Joanna and Bruce became decades-long collaborators…and friends.
Meeting in the children’s book department at Doubleday, it became my good fortune to have worked with Joanna on many books as colleague, editor and co-author. Our favorite books to co-write were the ones about best friends. We collaborated in work and in life.
On Losing Joanna
Joanna was excited to be starting research on her new Magic School Bus book. Losing Joanna, we lose the chance to share Ms. Frizzle’s latest science adventure with children, making them laugh and helping them better understand the world they live in.
We lose someone kind, brilliant, and witty.
A Personal Note:
This poem is in Joanna’s wonderful poetry anthology, A New Treasury of Children’s Poetry. With a change of pronoun, it says just how I feel.
I loved my friend.
He went away from me.
There’s nothing more to say.
The poem ends,
Soft as it began —
I loved my friend.
— Langston Hughes