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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  555 ratings  ·  145 reviews
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
Hardcover, 40 pages
Published March 13th 2018 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
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4.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  555 ratings  ·  145 reviews

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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
Melissa Stoller
Nov 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.
Laura Harrison
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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!
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
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A hero for any nerdy girl, so a hero for me.
Baby Bookworm
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: our-reviews

This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily!

Hello, friends! Our book today is Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles, 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
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 ...more
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez. PICTURE BOOK. Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. $18. 9780399557255



Joan Proctor was fascinated by reptiles from a very early age. She had many reptile pets and would conduct research on them in her room at home. She formed a friendship with the director for the Natural History Museum and was able to help construct displays and do research for the museum. Eventually, the London
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 ...more
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Heidi Burkhart
May 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved the story! The illustrations were wonderful.

[Only two things bothered me. When Joan is 16 she receives a baby crocodile. The illustration makes Joan look like a seven year old! On the facing page is an illustration of Joan taking that same crocodile to school. The two students who are crouching close to see it also look like young children, not women from a high school class].

A delightful book that I think many kids would enjoy. It is also an inspiring story for girls who may wish to p
Mar 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
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.
Shauna Yusko
Yes! Pair it with Ada Twist, Scientist. And SO many other girl scientist biographies.
Gorgeous and really really interesting.
Castle Spooktacular
an amazing glimpse into the life of a rad lady doing rad things! A true pioneer in the world of early natural history.
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
Beautiful illustrations and a great story about a woman who broke from convention to further knowledge and science, ahead of her time.
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: juvenile
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 ...more
Apr 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Cool art and a pretty decent overview of a pioneer woman working with reptiles, but the incredibly oblique references to her chronic illness coupled with pictures of her riding through a zoo in a wheelchair were a little jarring.
Cathy Mealey
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovely language and engaging illustrations energize this amazing picture book biography about a trailblazing scientist from debut author Patricia Valdez and illustrator Felicita Sala.

Fascinated by reptiles from an early age, Joan Procter followed her childhood passion for slithery, scaly, unusual animals to an internationally renowned career at London’s Zoo and the Natural History Museum. Valdez introduces us to young, curious Joan, holding tea parties with reptiles while her peers preferred dol
Cathy Mealey
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Lovely language and engaging illustrations energize this amazing picture book biography about a trailblazing scientist from debut author Patricia Valdez and illustrator Felicita Sala.

Fascinated by reptiles from an early age, Joan Procter followed her childhood passion for slithery, scaly, unusual animals to an internationally renowned career at London’s Zoo and the Natural History Museum. Valdez introduces us to young, curious Joan, holding tea parties with reptiles while her peers preferred dol
Beth Anderson
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
With a touch of humor, this biography follows the path of a girl who was different, one who was fascinated by reptiles. Like these creatures, she was unique, quiet, and interesting. When the Komodo dragon was discovered, it inspired curiosity and fear. Joan, not only led the way in studying this creature, but bravely administered to a sick giant lizard, attracting the attention of the public.

Joan’s love of reptiles clearly comes through in the text and illustrations. This is a great story for a
Jessie Oliveros
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I've been reading many picture book biographies lately, and this one definitely stands out. Joan Proctor loved reptiles as a child--studying them, caring for them, watching them, even having tea parties with them! As an adult, she became the first female curator at the Reptile House of the London Zoo. She did a lot of work with Komodo dragons. They were highly misunderstood at the time, and she introduced them to the world as the gentle creatures they are. In her short life, Joan became world re ...more
Stephanie Tournas
This is a superlative picture book biography of an interesting woman who became a herpetologist in the 1920's, when women were thought incapable of doing such a job. What I especially like is the believable description of Procter as a young girl - how she loved reptiles and followed her dream of studying them. With sly humor, Valdez gives the reader the vicarious experience of the amazed visitors and curators of the Natural History Museum as they watch an utterly confident Procter handle the mon ...more
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars -- This book is an absolute delight. Young readers are introduced to Joan Procter, a woman with a passion for science and reptiles. It's great and encouraging to see these biographies of pioneering women, and inspiring to young girls who may not have traditionally "girly" interests.

It's true, this story takes place in the early 1900s and standards of animal care weren't always what they are today. As a child, Joan had a crocodile as a pet, and later in life, she didn't always seem to
Aug 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-a-day
A lack of rain this summer in northern Michigan has kept the sightings of snakes in our area down to a minimum. Which for some, if not many, people are perfectly fine. They tend to startle you more than present danger if you're not expecting them. (Believe it or not, I've had a garter snake wrapped around my wrist. When you're at camp with your students, you need to set aside personal fears to put your children at ease. Surprisingly enough the snake felt unexpectedly dry and textured.)

Many peopl
May 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: k-3-biography
Viewing the cover with Joan Proctor Dragon Doctor balancing a baby crocodile on her head, and a snake wrapping around her neck, it is true, this biography won't remain on the shelf long. Accompanied by exquisite colorful illustrations of Joan with her pet lizards as a very young girl, her biography states that her passion for snakes, and lizards, developed early. By the time she was 16-years-old she had her own pet crocodile, that she even brought to school. As an adult she became the first woma ...more
Sara - thelookingglassreads
Nov 16, 2018 rated it did not like it
I have complicated and unfortunate thoughts about this book. There are scenes of Joan with wild reptiles on leashes and in zoo enclosures that she designed. I am wholeheartedly against the imprisonment of animals for human fascination. Unfortunately, this book really promotes that. It also contributes to the notion that wild animals make good pets, as Joan was given a baby crocodile for her birthday and later in life takes walks with her Komodo dragon. I can appreciate the passion for animals an ...more
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a remarkable woman! I had never heard of her until this book came along. The story about her love of reptiles was so wonderful. I had always heard how dangerous Komodo dragons were and was quite alarmed that she allowed one of hers to roam freely at events! I know they have every venomous mouths. I can't imagine anyone these days allowing the m to just walk around in crowds! Scary! But then, back in those days, parents allowed their children to ride alligators (photos are out there!) and I ...more
Viviane Elbee
This is a fascinating non-fiction picture book biography about Joan Procter, a lady who was born in 1897 in London England, and who grew up to become the head curator of the Natural History Museum's reptile & fish department and the curator of reptiles, as well as the designer of the Reptile House, at the London Zoo.

It's beautifully written and the illustrations by Felicita Sala fit this story well.

The kids loved it and voted to give it 5 stars.

Great for: kids who love reptiles, komodo drago
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