Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor

Today Perfect Picture Book Friday features the biography of a remarkable woman who loved reptiles. Tuck your fears away and take a peek at the life of Joan Procter by debut picture book author and scientist Patricia Valdez.

Please come back next Friday when Patricia shares her process of “Mining for Heart” with this story.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707Title: Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor, the Woman Who Loved Reptiles

Written by: Patricia Valdez

Illustrated by: Felicita Sala

Alfred A. Knopf, 3/13/2018

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes/topics: reptiles, scientists, komodo dragon

Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, a little girl named Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests.
Slithery and scaly, they turned over teacups. They crawled past the crumpets.
While other girls read stories about dragons and princesses, Joan read books about lizards and crocodiles. Instead of a favorite doll, a favorite lizard accompanied her wherever she went.

Overview (from
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.

Activities and Resources:

  • Great opportunity for students to research a favorite reptile. Compare and contrast. Make some graphs. How do reptiles fit into the food chain?
  • Explore reptile camouflage. Consider the “art” of reptile skin.
  • How about a field trip to the reptile house at your nearest zoo?
  • Design a zoo habitat for your favorite reptile.
  • Compare and contrast komodo dragons with fictional dragons.


Why I like this book:
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.


Visit author Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books for a plethora of picture books listed by title and topic/theme, each with teacher/parent activities and resources.

12 thoughts on “Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor

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