Joan Procter, the subject of this inspiring picture book biography, was fascinated by reptiles even as a young child, when she went everywhere accompanied not by a doll but a favourite lizard. Thus began her lifelong immersion in all things scaly, from being given a baby crocodile as a gift on her sixteenth birthday, to being appointed as assistant curator at the Natural History Museum and subsequently succeeding the museum’s curator of reptiles on his retirement.
Joan’s expertise in herpetology, coupled with her artistic skills, resulted in her being invited to redesign the Reptile House at London Zoo. Here, the arrival of the first Komodo dragons from Indonesia caused a particular stir with both members of the public and the media, especially when she fearlessly tended to a sore in the mouth of Sumbawa, one of these dragons.
Before long Joan Proctor was an international sensation renowned for her scholarship, her dedication and her clinical skills.
Throughout the book, the author makes subtle references to Joan’s chronic ill health that resulted in her untimely death aged only thirty-four, but foregrounds her many achievements and her passion for herpetology.
Sala’s vibrant illustrations portray her as a chic young woman often with a long rope of pearls around her neck, surrounded by her beloved reptiles, and highlighting that enormous affinity between her and the creatures she cared for. At the end of the book is information about Proctor’s life, photographs and facts about the Komodo dragons. Immersive and exciting, this is a book to add to a collection of titles featuring ground-breaking women, especially those in STEM fields.