Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles

by Patricia Valdez (Author) Felicita Sala (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
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
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Kirkus Reviews

This view into Procter’s brief life connects her early passion for reptiles with her innovative career combining scientific research, practice, art, and design.

School Library Journal

Starred Review

K-Gr 3--Joan Procter, the subject of this biographical picture book, was an internationally recognized herpetologist in the early 20th century and the curator of reptiles at the British Natural History Museum. This excellent biography presents an inspirational story of a smart, dedicated female scientist. It will be an important addition to the list of newer books for children featuring the work of women in STEM fields. The story adroitly communicates Procter's determination, curiosity, and complete fascination with reptiles. Throughout the text there are many opportunities for vocabulary building, especially in regards to reptiles. Sala's vibrant artwork perfectly complements the narrative. A variety of techniques in backgrounds, word placements, and the use of black silhouettes provide depth to the pages and present readers with a variety of viewpoints. The ever-present reptiles will be the star attraction for most children, but the colorful tropical plants add atmosphere and really evoke the Reptile House. Following the story, the author includes additional biographical information on Procter, scientific details on Komodo Dragons, and a bibliography with primary and secondary sources. VERDICT An inspirational biography with exciting depictions of a variety of reptiles, including a pet Komodo dragon, that will keep any child interested--whether reading on their own or with a group. A first purchase for most libraries.--Theresa Muraski, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Library

Copyright 2018 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

Valdez paints a portrait of a unique woman whose love for reptiles developed into a gratifying career. As a child, Joan Procter enjoyed the company of pet lizards, snakes, turtles, and even a crocodile. These interests led her to work as a curator at London's Natural History Museum--a position made possible because many male scientists were serving in WWI. Her expertise resulted in an invitation to redesign the Reptile House at the London Zoo, and her particular fondness for the komodo dragons drew media attention. Sala's elegantly detailed art hints at the affinity between Procter and the reptiles, whose beadlike skin echoes the pearls in Procter's necklace, as its emerald hue matches her eyes. Back matter elaborates on Procter's unconventional passion and includes a photograph of her with her pet crocodile. Ages 4-8. Author's and illustrator's agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Productions. (Mar.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

"Whimsical artwork and an empowering story make this biography of a lesser-known woman scientist truly charming."—Booklist, starred review

"An inspirational biography with exciting depictions of a variety of reptiles, including a pet Komodo dragon, that will keep any child interested—whether reading on their own or with a group."—School Library Journal, starred review

"Valdez paints a portrait of a unique woman whose love for reptiles developed into a gratifying career."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
Patricia Valdez
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.

Sara Palacios was the recipient of the 2012 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Award for her work on Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match. A native of Mexico, Sara graduated from the National Institute of Fine Arts in Mexico City and went on to earn BFA and MFA degrees in illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. She illustrates for companies in both the United States and Mexico.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication date
March 20, 2018
BISAC categories
JNF051150 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Science & Nature | Zoology
JNF003190 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Animals | Reptiles & Amphibians
JNF007120 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Women
Library of Congress categories
Zoo keepers
Procter, Joan
London Zoo (London, England)

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