Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

For fans of Ada Twist: Scientist comes a fascinating picture book biography of a pioneering female scientist--who loved reptiles!Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, young Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests: slithery and scaly ones, who turned over teacups and crawled past the crumpets.... While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferr...

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Title:Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles
Author:Patricia Valdez
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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles Reviews

  • Sarah Lynne

    JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR (written by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala, published by Alfred A. Knopf).

    When I saw the cover and title for this book, I thought I would like it, but it was when I saw the endpapers that I KNEW I would love it.

    With “dragon” in the title, I hadn’t initially realized that this was a biography of a “trailblazing woman of science, who was an international sensation in her time and whose legacy paved the way for female zoologist around the world”. However

    JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR (written by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala, published by Alfred A. Knopf).

    When I saw the cover and title for this book, I thought I would like it, but it was when I saw the endpapers that I KNEW I would love it.

    With “dragon” in the title, I hadn’t initially realized that this was a biography of a “trailblazing woman of science, who was an international sensation in her time and whose legacy paved the way for female zoologist around the world”. However, after being hooked by the title and the engaging cover art (as well as the beautiful endpapers) I was quickly swept away by this fascinating story. The gorgeous illustrations give a wonderful sense of the era, and are full of lovely textures - from the scales of the reptiles to the vegetation of the exhibits, not to mention the softly cross-hatched backgrounds. I loved discovering Joan’s scientific pursuits throughout the story, and I wish I could have learned more about her work as an artist, hinted at here:

    “As a scientist, she surveyed the museum’s vast collections and published research papers on pit vipers and pancake tortoises. As an artist, she created exquisite models and drawings for the reptile exhibits.

    It sounds like she was a dedicated scientist who carefully cared for these fascinating, often reviled creatures; constantly working to help people see the beauty of the animals she loved. As a little girl who dreamed of being a zoologist I would have loved this book, and I am sure that many children, caregivers, librarians, teachers will love it too!

  • Melissa Stoller

    This inspiring story about a woman scientist hits just the right notes. From the first page, where the author writes, "while other girls read stories about dragons and princesses, Joan read books about lizards and crocodiles," the reader wants to find out what happens next. And the book comes full circle with the type of dragon Joan eventually loves. The illustrations perfectly complement the story. This book is a winner and will be a wonderful addition to a home or school library.

  • KC

    As a child, Londoner Joan Proctor didn't love parties and dances, she loved lizards and snakes. A stunning biography on a remarkable woman who rocked the science world and sadly died entirely too soon.

  • Alexandra Calaway

    A hero for any nerdy girl, so a hero for me.

  • Laura Harrison

    One of the best picture book biographies I have ever read. A compelling subject, entertaining and extremely well researched and written. The illustrations are magnificent. There is even an actual photo of Joan with her pet alligator included. Phenomenal!

  • Baby Bookworm

    Hello, friends! Our book today is

    , written by Patricia Valdez and illustrated by Felicita Sala, the story of the notable herpetologist and researcher.

    From childhood, Joan loved nothing more than spending time with her reptiles. Snakes, turtles, lizards, and the baby crocodile she was given for her birthday; Joan loved the quiet, intellig

    Hello, friends! Our book today is

    , written by Patricia Valdez and illustrated by Felicita Sala, the story of the notable herpetologist and researcher.

    From childhood, Joan loved nothing more than spending time with her reptiles. Snakes, turtles, lizards, and the baby crocodile she was given for her birthday; Joan loved the quiet, intelligent animals all. She would often spend her days in discussion with the curator of reptiles at the London Natural History Museum, who took Joan under his wing as a protege. When war came to England, Joan was offered a vacant position at the museum as the curator’s assistant; by the time the war had ended, she had been promoted to Reptile Curator. When the London Zoo decided to rebuild its reptile house, they consulted Joan, who designed a paradise for her scaly friends, including two Komodo Dragons that she formed a special bond with. Joan’s love of reptiles encouraged others to do the same, including passing on that love to the next generation of young zoologists.

    Very interesting! I had never heard of Joan, but was immediately taken by her story. Obviously, a young girl having a passion for herpetology was considered highly unusual in early 20th century England, and while this is mentioned a few times, the story focuses less on her gender and more on her tireless work (I was surprised to learn in the appendix that she died so young, considering her wealth of contributions to the field). The art is really lovely, putting special focus on the reptiles, inviting the reader to see them through Joan’s eyes. The length is very manageable for a biography, and JJ loved all the animals. A wonderful story about a remarkable woman, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

    Be sure to check out

    for more reviews!

  • Barbara

    Although I'm no fan of zoos--yes, I know they serve a purpose, but I always feel sad at the thought of various species in captivity and I know that some zoos have not been the best places for many animals--I was excited to read this brief picture book biography about a woman who defied the gender norms of her time. not only did Joan Procter prefer lizards and snakes to dolls, but she brokered her hobby and keen interest in reptiles into a job at the Natural History Museum where she was befriende

    Although I'm no fan of zoos--yes, I know they serve a purpose, but I always feel sad at the thought of various species in captivity and I know that some zoos have not been the best places for many animals--I was excited to read this brief picture book biography about a woman who defied the gender norms of her time. not only did Joan Procter prefer lizards and snakes to dolls, but she brokered her hobby and keen interest in reptiles into a job at the Natural History Museum where she was befriended by the curator. She designed and updated a species-friendly Reptile House of the London Zoo where two of the special animals on display were Komodo dragons. One dragon, Sumbawa, allowed Joan to take care of a sore in his mouth, and the two of them became especially close. The book includes anecdotes about the reactions of onlookers to Sumbawa and how annoyed Joan felt when reporters were interested in asking her silly questions about herself instead of questions about the animals. Back matter includes photographs of the real Joan Procter and information about her life and the Komodo dragons. Sadly, health issues caused her to die at 34. There is also a bibliography and some paintings of the creatures she studied and loved. What a fascinating woman and what amazing animals! This title would fit nicely in a collection devoted to women or groundbreaking women or one focusing on zoos or rare and fascinating animals.

  • Kirsten

    This was a HUGE hit with my animal-obsessed preschooler. It discusses the career and accomplishments of a pioneering herpetologist in a kid-friendly and humorous way. Procter’s chronic illness and wheelchair use are also touched upon. The back matter provides valuable biographical information for parents/older kids, as well as scientific background on Komodo dragons. I enjoyed the lively illustrations, although at times the style seemed a bit flat and inconsistent — some illustrations are much m

    This was a HUGE hit with my animal-obsessed preschooler. It discusses the career and accomplishments of a pioneering herpetologist in a kid-friendly and humorous way. Procter’s chronic illness and wheelchair use are also touched upon. The back matter provides valuable biographical information for parents/older kids, as well as scientific background on Komodo dragons. I enjoyed the lively illustrations, although at times the style seemed a bit flat and inconsistent — some illustrations are much more detailed than others.

    Warning: you may need to explain to your child that crocodiles don’t really make good pets.

    Notes on representation: positive depiction of wheelchair use. Procter was white, but crowd scenes are appropriately diverse.

  • QNPoohBear

    Joan Proctor was an early 20th-century herpetologist at the British Natural History Museum and London Zoo. Without much formal education in science, she developed a passion for studying reptiles and amphibians early on in life. A sickly child, her best friend was her pet crocodile! She was able to take advantage of the vacancies left by men during WWI to enter into the profession. She was truly passionate about her creatures and made the London Zoo a better place. The book contains a biography a

    Joan Proctor was an early 20th-century herpetologist at the British Natural History Museum and London Zoo. Without much formal education in science, she developed a passion for studying reptiles and amphibians early on in life. A sickly child, her best friend was her pet crocodile! She was able to take advantage of the vacancies left by men during WWI to enter into the profession. She was truly passionate about her creatures and made the London Zoo a better place. The book contains a biography and a timeline of events.

    I liked the short, easy to read prose and learned a lot about this woman I had never heard of. These types of animals are not my thing but Joan reminded me of one of my dearest friends. My major problem with this book is the cartoony illustrations. I did not get a sense of what Komodo Dragons and other animals REALLY looked like with the flat 2D drawings. I would have liked more lifelike illustrations and more of Joan Proctor's own drawings like those shown at the end of the book. I think kids who love reptiles will like this story and kids who hate reptiles might learn to like them.

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