Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles (Patricia Valdez)

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!

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