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... There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children's tea parties - with her komodo dragon as the guest of honour.
Reviewed by Jon Biddle
Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor : The Woman Who Loved Reptiles is reminiscent of the wonderful Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty, this picturebook biography tells the story of another ground-breaking female scientist, zoologist and herpetologist Joan Procter. From her early fascination with snakes and crocodiles to her pioneering work redesigning the world-famous Reptile House at London Zoo, this book provides an informative account of Joan’s short life.
The recognisable illustrative style of Felicita Sala, who also worked on the marvellous Mr Crum’s Potato Predicament, has helped to create a visually exciting book, full of detailed pictures featuring numerous exotic reptiles.
The story of how Joan’s determination and single-mindedness enabled her to reach a position in the scientific community almost unheard of in the early twentieth century is inspiring, as is the way that she introduced and educated the British public about the fearsome Komodo dragon. The back matter provides useful extra details about her life, as well as a photograph of Joan holding her pet crocodile.
The book could be used successfully as an introduction to a science topic on animal classification or to work on writing biographies. It highlights the changing role of women in the workplace in the early part of the last century, as well as raising some interesting questions about the imbalance between the status afforded to men and women involved in scientific discovery.
This title would sit nicely alongside other Science biographies such as Marie Curie or collections like Science and Me which looks at Nobel Prize winners or Kate Pankhurst’s Fantastically Great Women Scientists and Their Stories.
Picturebook biographies are always an enjoyable way to introduce non-fiction during class storytime, and I will certainly be using Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor in future.