Just Imagine

Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor

Authored by Patricia Valdez
Illustrated by Felicita Sala
Published by Andersen Press

Reminiscent of the wonderful Ada Twist, Scientist, this picturebook biography tells the story of another ground-breaking female scientist, the 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 a wonderful and 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 helped 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. Picturebook biographies are always an enjoyable way to introduce non-fiction during class story time and I will certainly be using this one in future.