Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez, illustrated by Felicita Sala (9780399557262)
Ever since she was a little girl, Joan Procter loved lizards and other reptiles and amphibians. She dismissed dolls in favor of her animals, even having a baby alligator as a pet and taking it to school with her. But Joan was born in the late 1800s, so girls were not expected to study science, still she sought out the curator of reptiles and fish at the Natural History Museum rather than going to dances. With England at war, Joan was asked to work at the museum and eventually took over as curator. She designed the Reptile House at the London Zoo, using her artistic and scientific skills and created a habitat for their new Komodo dragons. Joan grew especially fond of Sumbawa, one of the Komodo dragons, who was gentle enough to walk outside with her and attend tea parties with children.
This picture book biography takes just the right tone about Joan’s life, filled with delight at her bringing an alligator to school and also relishing in her series of high-profile successes. The final pages of the book offer more details about Joan’s life and her early death at age 34. It also has more information about Komodo dragons and a robust bibliography. The illustrations has just the right mix of playfulness and science, showing the reptiles up close and also Joan’s own connection with them.
A brilliant look at an amazing woman who broke into science thanks to her skill and passion. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from e-galley provided by Alfred A. Knopf and Edelweiss.)
A Lady Has the Floor by Kate Hannigan, illustrated by Alison Jay (9781629794532)
The incredible and impressive life of Belva Lockwood is depicted in this nonfiction picture book. Belva grew up playing outside with the boys and soon became a teacher in her community. Though women did not attend college, Belva did and graduated with honors in 1857. She taught school, but didn’t like that the girls in the class were not called on or asked to recite in front of the class. She worked with Susan B. Anthony to demand that New York public schools teach public speaking to all students and that girls be able to have physical education as well. Belva went to law school in a time when women were not allowed to be lawyers. She was at first denied her diploma, though she finished her courses. Even after becoming an attorney, some judges refused to hear her in their courtrooms. In 1879, Belva convinced law makers for women’s rights to be attorneys and got the laws changed. Belva fought for women’s rights to vote as well, becoming the first woman to run for president in 1884.
Belva Lockwood is a woman that we should all know better than we do. This biography of her is filled with impressive moments, ones that set her apart from even the other women working on the same issues. Belva is incredibly tenacious and resilient, never giving up and managing to get change to happen after years of work. She is a great model for today’s women’s rights movements. The illustrations by Jay have her signature folk style with cracked paint that perfectly evoke the time period and invite readers into the past.
A biography of an inspiring figure in American her-story. Appropriate for ages 6-9. (Reviewed from library copy.)
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington (9780062651730)
As a little girl, Dr. Mae Jemison dreamt of becoming an astronaut. Her mother in particular supported her dreams even when one of her teachers explained that someone like Mae should consider being a nurse instead. Looking at Dr. Jemison’s career through the lens of her childhood dreams makes for a powerful picture book for children who have their own big dreams for their futures. The focus here is on staying true to your passions and not allowing others to dash your dreams before you even begin to try. The mantra from Jemison’s mother is “If I can dream it, if I can believe in it, and if I work hard for it, anything is possible.”
Told in very simple sentences, this picture book biography is for younger children than many biographies. The illustrations have a luscious watercolor palette with images filled with stars and colors. A great pick to share aloud with young children and talk about dreams. Appropriate for ages 4-7. (Reviewed from library copy.)