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The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System

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Template:Infobox Book

The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System is the fourth book in Joanna Cole and Bruce Degan's The Magic School Bus series. The book depicts arguably the most well-known adventure of the series and introduces the character of Janet.

Synopsis

Ms. Frizzle's class is learning about the solar system and Arnold's unpleasant cousin Janet, who constantly raves about herself, has joined them. The Friz decides to take the kids on a field trip to the planetarium, but, once they get there, they find the planetarium is closed. However, on the way back to school, Arnold reminds Mrs. Frizzle of the planetarium known as "the big one". Ms. Frizzle pushes a button that makes the bus transform into a rocket and blast off into outer space.

Once in outer space, the bus flies to the Moon, where the kids make the most of the lesser gravity. Ms. Frizzle then takes them to the Sun and then Mercury, Venus and Mars before flying into the asteroid belt. However, while in the belt, the bus is damaged by an asteroid and the Friz flies out to fix the damage with a tether line connecting her to the bus. However, the bus's autopilot malfunctions, causing the bus to fly off, breaking Ms. Frizzle's tether line and stranding her in the asteroid belt.

Janet looks through the Friz's things and finds Ms. Frizzle's lesson book, which documents the information she is supposed to tell the kids during the field trip (complete with "Arnold, are you listening?" written into it.) Janet reads through the book as they pass the outer planets and until they pass Pluto, leaving the solar system. Janet then flips through the book and finds the instructions for the autopilot, so they can fly back to the asteroid belt and rescue Ms. Frizzle.

After they rescue the Friz, they return to Earth. The kids try to tell everyone about their strange trip, but no one believes them.

Reception

Michele Landsberg of Entertainment Weekly gave a very positive review of the book, saying that, "The fun is irresistible and the information substantial [...]".[1]

Television adaptation

Template:Infobox Television episode

The book was adapted into the first episode of the Magic School Bus television series to be broadcast. It is likely not the first episode produced (i.e. the pilot episode) since Arnold at one point mentions that the class went on a field trip inside a rotten log, probably referring to the events of the episode "The Magic School Bus Meets The Rot Squad." (He also mentions that they've gone to the bottom of the ocean, but they didn't do that until the second-season episode "The Magic School Bus Blows Its Top.")

For the most part, the episode is faithful to the book. Most notably, in the episode, Janet's bragging about herself doesn't appear to be empty bragging and she constantly raves about how "proof" is needed for all extraordinary claims, prompting her to force Arnold to collect "proof" from every planet in the solar system, so she can prove to the students in her class that she actually traveled to all the planets. Also in this one Arnold surprisingly suggests going to outer space himself to prove to Janet the truth.

Also, instead of remaining in the asteroid belt, Ms. Frizzle uses her jet pack to fly off to another planet and provides the kids with clues as to her location via the radio on the bus. She, of course, turns out to be on Pluto. The ending is changed too, with all of Janet's "proof" falling out of the bus on Pluto and her refusing to leave without it. Arnold then demonstrates what will happen to her if she remains on Pluto by taking his helmet off, which freezes him and forces Janet to leave Pluto immediately. This ending, of course, makes Arnold the hero instead of Janet.

Ironically for a show intended to teach science, the episode repeats the urban legend that one can catch a cold from the cold. The common cold is a viral infectious disease and one especially cannot catch it in the virtually airless atmosphere of Pluto as Arnold does in the episode.

This episode also marks the introduction of Janet in the TV series, and it is also the first time the bus is driven by the kids or someone other than Ms. Frizzle (the bus doesn't appear to have autopilot in the episode).

Software adaptation

The Magic School Bus Explores the Solar System is the first software game developed based on the Magic School Bus series (The Magic School Bus Explores the Human Body was released the same year.) In the game, Ms. Frizzle is lost as soon as the bus flies off into space and the goal of the game is to locate her using the clues she provides. The Friz's hiding place varies throughout the game.

As would become the standard for the remainder of the games in the original software series, the main screen consists of the bus's dashboard, where the user can "drive" the bus to any of the nine planets or Earth's moon. Since Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune lack solid surfaces, the bus instead lands on one of their moons (Io for Jupiter, Mimas for Saturn, Miranda for Uranus and Triton for Neptune.)

Once on a planet, the user can exit the bus, where a strange satellite called the "whatsit" must be clicked on to bring up an arcade-styled game in which the user, controlling one of the students, must collect one of Ms. Frizzle's tokens (giant coins with Ms. Frizzle's face on them) which provide the user with a clue as to the Friz's whereabouts and activate the "Friz-finder." There are only three clues available, but tokens will still need to be collected to activate the "Friz-finder" after all the clues have been exhausted. Clicking on the "Friz-finder" will determine whether Ms. Frizzle is anywhere on the current planet. If she is, then the game is completed, but if she is not then the user will have to collect another token to activate the "Friz-finder" to try again.

There are also a bunch of different surprises, including a singing barbershop group of rocks called "the Cratertots".

Notes

  • In three of the Magic School Bus games, Liz has the ability to speak (though it seems only the player can hear her).
  • Most of the voices in the software sound similar to those in the TV Series, except for Ms. Frizzle. As she is not credited in the Special Appearances credit, it is assumed Lily Tomlin did not reprise the role in the game, being replaced by an unknown actress.
  • When Keesha says "It's really cloudy down here", her voice is that of Phoebe's. Similar goofs happened in other software; Phoebe speaks in Keesha's voice showing her report about the Small Intestines, Dorothy Ann has Keesha and Phoebe's voices and not her own while exploring the Large Intestines, and Ralphie speaks in Tim's voice saying how ugly garbage is on the beach.
  • The music used for the 'Mercury' stage is a remix of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Relax.

References

  1. Landsberg, Michele. Book Review: The Magic School Bus Lost in the Solar System (1991). Entertainement Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-03-26.

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