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.

  • Christy

    The author weaves a great true story about a fascinating, trailblazing young woman who loved reptiles. In the 1920s, she became a world-renowned expert who ran the London Zoo's reptile house and, apparently without a lot of formal training, could perform delicate surgeries on dangerous reptiles. The story of her relationships with the Komodo dragons, and how she helped to educate people about them, will be particularly compelling to young readers. And the illustrations are eye-popping and beauti

    The author weaves a great true story about a fascinating, trailblazing young woman who loved reptiles. In the 1920s, she became a world-renowned expert who ran the London Zoo's reptile house and, apparently without a lot of formal training, could perform delicate surgeries on dangerous reptiles. The story of her relationships with the Komodo dragons, and how she helped to educate people about them, will be particularly compelling to young readers. And the illustrations are eye-popping and beautiful. There's also good back matter including a fuller biography, which notes Proctor's health issues and her early death, and a bibliography. And it's a great title, too. I love this book! (I reviewed an advance copy.)

  • Tasha

    Ever since she was a little girl, Joan Procter loved lizards and other reptiles and amphibians. She dismissed dolls in favor of her animals, even having a baby alligator as a pet and taking it to school with her. But Joan was born in the late 1800s, so girls were not expected to study science, still she sought out the curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum rather than going to dances. With England at war, Joan was asked to work at the museum and eventually took over as curato

    Ever since she was a little girl, Joan Procter loved lizards and other reptiles and amphibians. She dismissed dolls in favor of her animals, even having a baby alligator as a pet and taking it to school with her. But Joan was born in the late 1800s, so girls were not expected to study science, still she sought out the curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum rather than going to dances. With England at war, Joan was asked to work at the museum and eventually took over as curator. She designed the Reptile House at the London Zoo, using her artistic and scientific skills and created a habitat for their new Komodo dragons. Joan grew especially fond of Sumbawa, one of the Komodo dragons, who was gentle enough to walk outside with her and attend tea parties with children.

    This picture book biography takes just the right tone about Joan’s life, filled with delight at her bringing an alligator to school and also relishing in her series of high-profile successes. The final pages of the book offer more details about Joan’s life and her early death at age 34. It also has more information about Komodo dragons and a robust bibliography. The illustrations has just the right mix of playfulness and science, showing the reptiles up close and also Joan’s own connection with them.

    A brilliant look at an amazing woman who broke into science thanks to her skill and passion. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

  • Kristy

    Gorgeous and really really interesting.

  • Robyn Schultz

    Really liked this book! Made me want to learn more about Joan Procter. There is an excellent bibliography at the end, so that's easy.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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