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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

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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 preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere--she even brought a crocodile to school!

When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children's tea parties--with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor.

With a lively text and vibrant illustrations, scientist and writer Patricia Valdez and illustrator Felicita Sala bring to life Joan Procter's inspiring story of passion and determination.

40 pages, Library Binding

First published March 13, 2018

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Patricia Valdez

3 books36 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 328 reviews
Profile Image for Manybooks.
3,207 reviews104 followers
July 23, 2021
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 main narrative, I was truly looking forward to perusing Patricia Valdez' text proper and also pretty well expected to both appreciate and greatly enjoy the latter's introduction to Joan Procter and her fasciation and obsession with reptiles (how it was she who was hired by the London Zoo in 1923 to design better and more suitable housing for their reptiles, how it was she who provided medical treatment for the zoo's reptiles, including its Komodo Dragons, but also that unfortunately and sadly, Joan Procter passed away at the young age of thirty-four due to chronic health issues).

However and indeed very frustratingly and sadly, while Patricia Valdez' presented narrative does definitely show the main points of Joan Procter's life and certainly descriptively and also very much accurately details her love of and her obsession with all kinds of reptiles in general, there is, in my opinion also and nevertheless a most annoying and problematic lack of a sense of accurate time and place shown in Joan Procter, Dragon Docter: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles. As honestly, neither Patricia Valdez' text nor Felicita Sala's accompanying illustrations (and yes, these are also more than a bit too cartoon-like and unrealistic feeling for my personal aesthetics, except perhaps for her renditions of the reptiles) ever really in any way accurately portray and depict that Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles is about early 20th century England. And indeed, if I had not first read in the author's note at the back of the book that Joan Procter lived from 1897-1931, I would have been assuming from both text and images that especially she being hired by the London Zoo after the war dealt with post WWII and NOT post WWI England, as NONE of Patricia Valdez' printed words and NONE of Felicita Sala's illustrations really ever univocally describe and say early 20th century to me (with in particular Ms Sala's drawings appearing too modern and post WWII in scope and feel).

And therefore, while I firmly think and believe that Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles does provide a decent and accurate enough general introduction to Joan Procter, her life and achievements, that lack of a sense of historic accuracy with regard to time and place (and that yes indeed, both the author's narrative and especially the illustrator's accompanying drawings do feel much much too contemporary to and for my eyes) has certainly much lessened potential reading pleasure and has made me consider only a two star ranking maximum for Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles (for a generally sweet, engaging and informative story that has unfortunately been rendered more than a bit out of historic time with and by a decided dearth of era specific words and descriptions and by accompanying illustrations that never once have felt as though I was seeing and experiencing early 20th century England).
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,336 reviews
March 8, 2019
"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 could meet this kind and intelligent woman whose life was so tragically short. But what wonderful things she accomplished in that life! I love that she was woman in early 1900s England who was able to succeed in a male-dominated field and was even encouraged by Dr. George Boulenger (his name really ought to have appeared in the story) the curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum, who recognized and championed young Joan's talent, took her on as an assistant and asked her to fill his position when he retired. Joan's compassion and talent with the reptiles is remarkable, particularly her friendship with the first Komodo dragon to reach England in 1927. Certainly adults today could discuss with children the pros and cons of zoos, but given the era I thought Joan showed remarkable sensitivity and courage in her interactions with reptiles and her work helped the public better understand these special creatures (particularly the Komodo dragons, whom many viewed as little more than monsters--Joan showed that they could be very gentle and even companionable.)

The biggest flaw here is that the illustrations really don't give a good sense of time and place, nor of what the reptiles actually look like. I would have appreciated illustrations that place us more firmly in pre-WWI England and that show the reptiles more accurately. However, the Author's Note is excellent (I appreciated the actual photos of Joan; love the one with her and her baby crocodile when she is sixteen) and I very much enjoyed the style of the story and it's certainly one worth reading.
Profile Image for Sarah Reul.
Author 13 books37 followers
December 18, 2017
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!

Profile Image for Melissa Stoller.
Author 9 books48 followers
November 30, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Dolly.
Author 1 book649 followers
June 27, 2019
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 that the backgrounds are filled with interesting details, although I agree with other reviewers that both the narrative and the pictures could have been a bit more specific regarding the time in which the book is set.

The various critters are more adorable than scary, and I am sure many children will be inspired to study them, too.

This book was featured as one of the selections for the March 2019 - Outstanding Women-themed reads for the Picture-Book Club in the Children's Books Group here at Goodreads.

I'm glad that it was selected, as I'm not sure if we would have discovered it otherwise. I am such a fan of books like this that help to introduce children to lesser-known figures in history.

interesting quotes:

"The reptiles were quiet and watchful, just like Joan." (p. 9 - unpaged)

"For her sixteenth birthday, Joan received a most curious gift - a baby crocodile! She tied a ribbon around his waist and took him for a walk." (p. 10 - unpaged)
Profile Image for QNPoohBear.
3,098 reviews1,483 followers
June 2, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Sara - thelookingglassreads.
95 reviews67 followers
November 16, 2018
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 and the research and medicine that she contributed to. I can't appreciate the romanticizing of animals in captivity, delivered to a zoo with many injuries from travel. I dont think this book sends an appropriate message to kids. It only contributes to lack of empathy for other species and the idea that having a wild animal pet is okay.
Profile Image for Kirsten.
2,131 reviews90 followers
April 3, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Kris.
3,070 reviews70 followers
February 10, 2021
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 that Joan did. Uneven.
Profile Image for Kirsti.
2,563 reviews101 followers
March 25, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Laura Harrison.
1,030 reviews113 followers
April 20, 2018
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!
Profile Image for KC.
2,423 reviews
May 9, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Simay Yildiz.
564 reviews140 followers
May 12, 2021
Bu sevimli çocuk kitabını bayrama saklayacaktım ama bekleyemedim. Şahane bir kadının şahane hikayesi; hastalıkların hayallere engel olmaması gerektiğinin kanıtı! Joan’ın arkadaşları ve öğretmeni çıldırmış ama ben şahsen keşke benim de okula timsahını getiren bir arkadaşım olsaydı demedim değil.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
9,813 reviews417 followers
March 13, 2019
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 next page at school all the young ladies are barely covering their knees... ? In fact, all of the illustrations belie the 'long skirts' reference... maybe at the time of her birth that was the fashion, but it wasn't during her life, so a birth year would have been much more relevant.

There are so many missing details in the text. The war (which?), the Natural History Museum (where?) , 'four years later,' (from when?).... I honestly don't think we should need to go to the appendices to dig out details like that.

Really a simplistic telling, a mere sample. Any reader with the least bit of interest in reptiles, Komodo dragons, brave women, even the period of history, will want so much more.
Profile Image for Heidi Burkhart.
2,134 reviews32 followers
May 20, 2018
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 pursue the biological sciences.
Profile Image for Kayla.
1,084 reviews3 followers
June 12, 2019
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!
Profile Image for Rereader.
1,325 reviews99 followers
March 1, 2023
2023 March Reading Challenge
Prompt: read a book, fiction or nonfiction, about a female historical figure

*sigh* Okay, here's the deal.

I picked this book for this prompt because a) I had straight up never heard of her before and b) it was about reptiles and that was all I needed. I completely understand that, since this is a kids biography, most of her life would be reduced to her most memorable moments. I also understood that her life would be explained simply since this is meant for kids. However, to me neither of these concessions made it okay (to me) that seemingly important aspects of her story seemed to be missing.

First and foremost, it is made clear from the beginning that she was "not like other girls" *shudders* and I figured that would be addressed throughout the book. Well, it was, but only in the most superficial way. She didn't go to parties, she didn't have a favorite doll, she didn't have a cute pet, blah blah blah. And I would have let it slide if the fact that she was a female curator, scientist, and artist was brought up in terms of how the public and the male dominated field of science perceived her. But no! Considering how short this book is, the only time it is explicitly mentioned that she was a woman working in a male dominated profession ONCE. I dunno, don't you think that's kind of an important aspect of her life and something she would have, you know, STRUGGLED WITH? And we're just...not gonna discuss it? Isn't that just a little bit weird???

On a slightly less important topic but still felt relevant to me, we never got to learn about her home life, her parents, or her friends. She got a crocodile for her sixteenth birthday, so I guess I'm supposed to infer that her parents supported her, but could have been shown that more? And what, she didn't have any friends? At all? And she was okay with that? I don't know because this book NEVER TOLD US. And no, I don't care that this is a kids book, these are basic things we should learn about ANYONE, regardless of who they are.

It may seem like I'm being unfairly mean, but its only because I felt like this woman got robbed in terms of how her story was told. Remember, I had NEVER heard of this woman up until this point, so I wanted to learn about her, even if it meant reading a kids book. But there are basic aspects of her life and story that are missing seemingly for no reason. I'm not saying this book had to be a tome, just add more details about her life, not just her work.

Anyway, despite my complaints, this was a good book and the art was beautiful. I think a lot of kids will enjoy this and frankly that's all that matters.
Profile Image for Sunday.
923 reviews45 followers
April 7, 2020
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 not a deal breaker. I'd make that part of the introduction and then during a second or third read aloud, I'd prompt them to think about not only what's happening in the book, but also how we know it's a different time period. I'd also read the author's note aloud (as appropriate) or use the author's note as a "second source" to compare and contrast with the details in the narrative.

As part of an interactive read aloud you might pose questions like the following:
*How do we know Joan Procter was different than other girls (or even people in general) in that time period?
*What are details in the text and illustrations that reveal a different time period?
*Would people think Joan's curiosity about reptiles is so different today? (This could be fun to hear responses to...some students may feel like reptiles are scary...)
*How did Joan take care of the reptiles in her life? Why is this important?
*What did Joan do to change people's perceptions of reptiles? Why do you think she chose to do those things?

OR you might slow down and let students look carefully at the illustrations. Sala's "lively" illustrations (water color? colored pencil? digital?) could tell the story - the amazement Joan feels in the presence of reptiles, the awe-shock-horror other people feel in the presence of her reptiles. You might pose questions like-
*(on the two page layout that starts "Each day after school") - What do you see in this illustration that reveals Joan's fascination with reptiles?
*(on the two page layout that starts "A few years later") - How does the illustration help us understand Joan's design for the reptile house?
*(on the two page layout that starts "Sumbawa wandered through the audience") - How does this illustrations get at perspective? How does the illustration support what Joan tells the audience about the reports of the size of Komodo dragons being "greatly exaggerated"?

Connections to NGSS--
*K-LS1-1 All animals need food in order to live and grow... Ask students to think about Joan's design for the reptile exhibit- "When Joan Procter designed the reptile house for the London Zoo, how did she consider what animals need in order to live and grow?"
*1-LS1-1 All animals have external parts... Ask students to think about how Joan Procter went about learning about the animals and their parts? And "Why was this important?"
*2-LS4 - Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats--"What knowledge about the reptiles' habitats must Joan have used to create the design for the reptile house?" or "How does the author/illustrator reveal that Joan engaged heavily in observing as a way to learn?"

As a mentor text for writers, Valdez's writing offers a lot of food for thought--
*Check out the first sentence in the book - "Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, a little girl named Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests." - How does Valdez draw the reader in?
*Notice Valdez's descriptions of the reptiles - slithery and scaly, quiet and watchful, long forked tongue
*Notice Valdez's descriptions of how people responded (and how these contrast) - shrieked, recoiled, gawked, peered, marveled
*Notice how Valdez chose key events in Procter's life to describe in detail. Ponder why she chose some events and not others. Consider why Valdez chose not to describe in detail (in the narrative), Procter's chronic illness and to not include the fact that she died so young (except in the author's note).

DEFINITELY READ ALOUD OR SHARE THE AUTHOR'S NOTE with students. THIS WOULD BE A GREAT SECOND SOURCE on the topic. As students read or listen, ask them to consider this question, "What are you adding to your learning by reading the author's note?"

Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom (Robeson, 2019), Nothing Stopped Sophie: The Story of Unshakable Mathematician Sophie Germain (Bardoe, 2018), Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles (Valdez, 2018),
Counting on Katherine (Becker, 2018)
Caroline's Comet (McCully, 2017)
Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? (2013)
Guiding questions for thinking across these titles might be, "How did these women persevere?" and "Why was it important that they persevered? How was the world changed as a result?" I've also reviewed each of these. Look for my goodreads shelf "bio-strong-women" at https://www.goodreads.com/review/list....
Profile Image for Baby Bookworm.
1,642 reviews93 followers
May 9, 2018

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, 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 The Baby Bookworm for more reviews!
Profile Image for Linda .
3,776 reviews43 followers
March 20, 2019
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, she observed her pets and took notes, also from her books about reptiles. When sixteen, she received a small crocodile which she took to school once, scaring everyone. When she needed advice on the care of her pets, she sought out a reptile expert, Dr. George Boulenger, curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum. This relationship turned out wonderfully, for Boulenger asked Joan to be his assistant, then upon retirement, she took over the job. The book shares that her knowledge and art skills enabled her to create beautiful exhibits, then she moved on in 1923 (at age twenty-six!) to be the curator of the London Zoo reptiles. She designed the new reptile house, their clinic, and later on, became the receiver of two Komodo dragons, reptiles of which little was known. Many thought fearsome things about them, but Joan cared for them and often walked through the zoo, later in a wheelchair, with one that she named Sumbawa. One amusing story showing her loving kinship with dragons happened as she presented a paper at the Zoological Society about them. She brought along Sumbawa, who ate a pigeon whole and strolled among attendees. By that time she suffered from her disease even more and was in constant pain. She died at the age of thirty-four. The added information tells that one can find a marble bust of Joan just inside the reptile house.
The illustrations by Felicita Sala appear in the style of that time period, attention paid to Joan Proctor and her lizards, the people who were fascinated by her work, and Joan's special exhibits. Additional information and a bibliography can be found at the back plus a lovely photo of Joan as a young girl, holding a lizard.
Profile Image for Ivy Armitage.
24 reviews
April 20, 2019
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 book. Rory, from The Reptile Club, mirrors Joan Procter’s love for the very same creatures. Additionally, both books list several facts about reptiles throughout their storyline. Students should walk away from both books having learned something new or confirmed information they already know to be true about specific reptiles. Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor shares knowledge about the Komodo dragon, which she personally discovered through her research and experience working at the London Zoo. The Reptile Club uses talking reptile characters (a crocodile, anaconda, and gecko) to share fun reptile facts in a playful manner. Because both books offer facts about reptiles, I would use the K-W-L chart activity to bridge the two text. Students could work in pairs to activate prior knowledge and list facts they already know about reptiles under the K column. While still working with their partner, I would hold a whole group conversation to generate ideas/questions of things we want to know about reptiles. Students could pick and chose which ideas to list under the W column of their chart. While reading The Reptile Club I would encourage comments and discussion about the details of the book as it relates to what they have written on their K-W-L chart. I would do the same when reading Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor. Allow time for students to complete their L column and then have them share with the class. This could then be a Segway into the Science unit on reptiles. *Possibly have students use two different color writing utensils when completing their K-W-L charts to differentiate what was learned after reading each book.

Fergus, M. (2018). The Reptile Club. Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press Ltd.
Profile Image for Tasha.
4,117 reviews108 followers
March 4, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Barbara.
13.2k reviews277 followers
March 31, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*.
6,001 reviews193 followers
December 21, 2018
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 Zoo asked for Joan’s help in creating a new reptile house, which brought in new animals from around the world, with particular excitement about the Komodo Dragons. Joan was a pioneer in herpetology and worked for the zoo as long as she could until ill health made her retire.

This gives a really great overview of one of the first female herpetologists. She had a fascinating professional life and this book helps highlight that. The pictures are realistic and interesting to look at. It gives a good historical look at the time.

Shay, High School Librarian, MLS
5,212 reviews73 followers
November 27, 2020
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 House.
Profile Image for Heather Johnson.
591 reviews5 followers
July 21, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Beth.
3,289 reviews15 followers
January 31, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Clementine.
1,501 reviews121 followers
April 13, 2018
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.
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