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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

4.36  ·  Rating details ·  1,332 ratings  ·  278 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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Start your review of Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles
Now with regard to picture book biographies, I always tend to check if there is an author's note included and yes to usually read this first (as well as to check if the book in question also presents a suitable bibliography). And indeed, when I perused the excellent and informatively detailed supplemental note in Patricia Valdez' Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles (and noticed the for a picture book quite extensive bibliography), I was both excited to read the author's mai ...more
"Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, a little girl named Joan Proctor entertained the most unusual party guests.
Slithery and scaly, they turned over teacups. They crawled past the crumpets."

I loved this story about Joan Proctor, the little girl of Edwardian England who studied and loved her pet lizards and grew up to be the first female curator of the Reptile House at the London Zoo. This story gave me a wonderful sense of what made Joan unique and special and I so wished I coul
Sarah Reul
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. ...more
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. ...more
I'm so pleased that publishers are bringing out lots of absorbing and delightful children's books about women who had an impact on science and/or history. Joan Procter made valuable contributions to science even though she had a chronic illness that prevented her from attending university. When she was a little girl, she had a pet baby crocodile that she used to take for walks. When she was an adult, she used to take walks with a Komodo dragon who had bonded with her. ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
The biographies written for children today are wonderful and far more interesting than anything I came across in my childhood back in the 1970s.

I had never heard of Joan Proctor before and I learned a lot about her passion and accomplishments during her short life.

The narrative is short enough to keep a younger child's attention, but still filled with information about this herpetological pioneer.

The illustrations are colorful and cartoonish; the people's faces are very expressive.

And I love th
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
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
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
Mar 12, 2019 rated it liked it
I definitely have mixed feelings about the illustrations. I like the vivacity of them, the attempt to make history less musty and dusty. But I also agree with those of you who have said that the reptiles should look more realistic because after all Procter was a scientist and realistically (and beautifully) painted her subjects herself.

Also, when thinking about the time period of 'long skirts' why does 16 yo Joan look like she's a child, wearing a short dress walking her crocodile... and the n
Feb 10, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: picture-books
3.5 stars. I always like picture book biographies that introduce me to people I haven't heard of, and this one fits the bill. However, it has some issues. Joan Proctor had health issues that led to her not being able to attend school, eventually put her in a wheelchair, and killed her at a young age. But all of this is not addressed in the book, except very indirectly. There is also nothing mentioned about how it might not be a great idea to have an alligator for a pet. It is just a cool thing t ...more
Alexandra Calaway
May 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A hero for any nerdy girl, so a hero for me.
Read this aloud in K-3 and tie into NGSS; also use as a mentor text for students in grades 3-5. A delightful (and well written) narrative about the life of a curious woman. There's so many ways you could use this with students.

In grades k-3, I'd read aloud and then read aloud again, stopping to pose questions for student-led discussions. NOTE - I would let young students know that this is written about a girl who lived a hundred years ago in a very different time and (perhaps) place. This is no
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
SO cool! I feel like picture book biographies are really popular right now, and there are tons of great ones being published. I am learning about so many people I have never even heard of before!
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
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.
Joan Proctor was allowed to lead a magical life because her parents saw her passion for reptiles and let her nurture it. Thanks to Patricia Valdez we now can learn about this amazing, but brief, life. Born in 1897 in London, England when girls were supposed to be content with tea parties, she had her parties with pet lizards and snakes and brought her favorite, a large Dalmatian lizard, everywhere. She suffered from a chronic intestinal illness, so missed a lot of school but like a scientist, sh ...more
Ivy Armitage
As part of a Science crossover for a thematic unit on reptiles, I selected the following Twin Text. Nonfiction book- Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles by Patricia Valdez. Fiction book- The Reptile Club by Maureen Fergus.
I chose to pair these two books because they both cover the topic of reptiles. The biography of Joan Procter describes her love of reptiles as having a “passion for reptiles.” These exact same words are used to describe the main character in the fiction b
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
Nov 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Women scientists and reptile requests
Recommended to June by: Polly
Tells the story of the remarkable Joan Procter, who had reptiles to her tea parties, got a small crocodile for a birthday gift, made friends with the curator of reptiles and fish at the National History Museum, who hired her as his assistant. She took his position when he retired. She designed the new Reptile House at the London Zoo, and cared for the first Komodo Dragons, going on walks with one of them and having Sumbawa as the guest of honor at children's tea parties hosted at the Reptile Hou ...more
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
Heather Johnson
Jul 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
This 2020 Monarch Reader's Choice nominee is a beautiful work of nonfiction that young reptile lovers will adore. Joan Procter always enjoyed her reptiles and spent countless hours surrounded by her favorite creatures, drawing them, playing with them, and learning from them. This book captures the importance of nurturing a child's interests and how incredible women helped shape modern practices, including herpetology. ...more
Jan 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
I was interested to read about this curator of the London Zoo, who was a pioneering female zoologist and a huge fan of reptiles. Details about the design of the reptile house were great, and so was the descriptions of the walks she took with one of the resident Komodo dragons. I can't wait to get back to the zoo and ask about her with some of the keepers of our Seattle dragons. ...more
Robyn Schultz (ladyrobyns)
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. ...more
Liz B
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Interesting picture book biography of a person who deserves to be remembered.
Gorgeous and really really interesting.
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