Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

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.

A Chicago Public Library Best Book of the Year selection

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399557255
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/13/2018
Pages: 40
Sales rank: 88,926
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.20(d)
Age Range: 4 - 8 Years

About the Author

Patricia Valdez is a scientist who loves writing for children. She earned her Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley and currently works at the National Institutes of Health. Originally from Texas, she now lives in the Washington, D.C. area. This is her first picture book.

Felicita Sala is a self taught illustrator who studied Philosophy at the University of Western Australia. She has worked on several animation projects, but her passion is making picture books. Felicita lives in Rome with her husband and their daughter. Visit her online at,, and

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Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
NVCrittenden More than 1 year ago
Oh, how I loved reading this book! Joan Procter’s love for reptiles as a young child grew into a career studying and caring for these marvelous, misunderstood creatures. Felicita Sala’s illustrations are absolutely stunning. A must-read biography of an amazing young woman.
CathyBallouMealey More than 1 year ago
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 dolls. As Joan grew, her interest did not wane, so at 16 years old she received a pet crocodile as a birthday gift! In due time, Joan chatted up the director of Natural History museum about his work with reptiles. She began working there, surveying the museum’s vast collections, publishing research papers, and creating detailed, realistic models and drawings for the reptile exhibits. Given her enthusiasm, experience and extensive knowledge, Joan eventually became the Curator, an unusual role for a female scientist at the time. When invited to re-design the London Zoo Reptile House, Joan fell in love with a new and exotic creature, the Komodo dragon. This so-called fierce, man-eating lizard was “rumored to be…Thirty feet long! Faster than a motorcar! Stronger than an ox!” Joan, undeterred, could not wait to study the dragons first-hand. Her deep connection with one Komodo called Sumbawa led to some of the most stunning and innovative work of her career. Valdez keeps the paces of this fascinating story lively by introducing wonderful vocabulary woven carefully and completely within a child-friendly framework and perspective. She highlights her heroine’s passion and determination in an understated yet direct manner, giving Joan relevance and timeliness that transcend her timeperiod. JOAN PROCTER, DRAGON DOCTOR is an essential addition for collections on women in STEM fields, with the broad appeal of reptiles and science for many young readers boosts this title to the top. Salas illustrates dramatically, choosing with vibrant, rich colors for the settings, the tropical plants, and the starring-role reptiles. Joan is elegant yet serious, portrayed close to and interacting with her creatures, focused on them with great intensity, delight and passion. The reptiles themselves are marvelously textured and stylized, creeping, curving and twisting with dignified realism. Throughout the story, Salas provides tantalizing glimpses of early 20th century London through architecture and fashions of the era. The author includes additional biographical information on Procter as well as on Komodo Dragons. A bibliography with primary and secondary sources is a helpful resource for young readers who wish to explore more. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about this impressive scientist, her beloved ‘dragons’ and her trailblazing career in a book that is as beautiful and brilliant as it is important.
Shandamc More than 1 year ago
Joan Proctor, Dragon Doctor is my favorite non-fiction kids book of all time! An extremely well written and beautifully illustrated account of a girl that wasn’t like the rest. (Also an example of a girl that struggled with health issues and still lived to the fullest). I’ll be gifting this book to my child’s teacher soon!
JessicaOliveros More than 1 year ago
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 renowned for her work. The pictures are wonderful--very colorful, unique, and fun. And there are so many elements that would appeal to children, all written in such an engaging way: The tea parties with lizards (that deserves two mentions)! The "fearsome" Komodo dragons. Her pet crocodile when she was just 16. And the surgeries she performed on the lizards. Joan Proctor was a fascinating woman, and I'm excited for young readers to get to know her better!
ReaderWriterEducator More than 1 year ago
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 number of reasons. So many children are interested in reptiles, and the Komodo dragon – WOW! A crocodile at school? That will get their attention! For those who feel a bit squeamish about reptiles, Joan Procter’s affinity for them shows that our fears are often unfounded or dispelled by knowledge. There’s also an art/science connection that invites exploration. The cover absolutely grabbed me and has got to be one of my all-time favorites. The illustrations throughout are fun and a great marriage with the engaging text.