JOAN PROCTOR: Dragon Doctor

By Patricia Valdez

A recent trip to the Denver Zoo with my grandchildren produced an interesting result. My oldest granddaughter (age 3 ½) bypassed the monkeys, elephants and, to my horror (my fav) tigers- to fixate on the Komodo dragon in the reptile house! She even wanted to return there before we left the zoo. We bought her a stuffed toy Komodo dragon (glad they had that), and I went online to buy a suitable science book to follow up with.

I was also happy to come across this picture book based on a true story. Joan Proctor was born in 1897 and, as a child, became fascinated with reptiles. Being sickly and missing a lot of school allowed her time for self study and she quickly became an expert in this area. Eventually, she became the assistant to the curator of fish and reptiles at the National History Museum in London. Four years later, she became the curator distinguishing herself for her research and her ability to create lifelike habitats for the animals in her care. In 1923, she became curator of reptiles at the London Zoo.

Shortly after, Joan received the first two live Komodo dragons to reach Europe. Komodo dragons had only been discovered in 1910 and very little was known about them. Joan nursed Sumba and Sumbawa back to health after a rough journey. She created a suitable enclosure and did much to further scientific knowledge of the new species. Much gentler than their reputation, she was known for walking Sumbawa through the reptile house steering him with his tail.

The author has created a delightful tale about a little girl who pursued her passion and eventually contributed in her own special way. This is a book about following your interests and talents, especially motivating for little girls who are often easily molded on how to fit in and often lose their unique spark. So, this is a book for all the little Joans- whether they like lizards or not!  

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Fav from the past-

I fondly remember this book from my own childhood. What an adventure!

Claudia and Jamie run away from home and hide out in the famous Metropolitan Museum of Art. A beautiful statue leads Claudia to the mysterious, Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Find out the real story behind the book by following the link below.

https://rb.gy/qllst8

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VISIONARY FICTION FOR KIDS!

What is visionary fiction? It’s a new term for a collection of highly engaging stories.

According to the Visionary Fiction Alliance, “Visionary Fiction embraces spiritual and esoteric wisdom, often from ancient sources, and makes it relevant for our modern life. Gems of this spiritual wisdom are brought forth in story form so that readers can experience the wisdom from within themselves. Visionary fiction emphasizes the future and envisions humanity’s transition into evolved consciousness.”

My work falls in this category and I’m going to introduce you to a few more books by my fellow visionary writers. Grab one or two and enjoy. If you’ve read other books in this category (and you probably have, you just didn’t know it), feel free to leave a comment below.

The Dreams of Phillip Aisling and the Numinous Nagwaagan (Vol 1) by Brandon Bosse

Phillip Aisling is just like any other boy, or so he thought. On the night of his 13th birthday he has a dream so vivid that he is convinced it was real! He soon learns that he has begun training with the Dream Masters. They practice lucid dreaming to be able to fully control their dreams, giving them immense power. But when his vivid dreams turn into nightmares he never wants to fall asleep again! In his struggle to understand his remarkable dreams and prevent terrible nightmares, he finds The Dreamer’s Dictionary written to help young Dreamers make sense of their new powers.

Dragon Boy by Jim Murdoch

Eric daydreams of dragons. In his imagination, he believes he is, in reality, a dragon. As a dragon, he discovers Dreamland, a place where dreams come true.

But not everything we imagine is good. Fear and worry trap the only person to help heal Eric’s sick mother. Eric sees no hope of rescue until his friend, Enya, mentions the middle eye.

Orville Mouse and the Puzzle of the Clockwork Glowbirds (Orville Wellington Mouse Bk 1) by Tom Hoffman

Orville Wellington Mouse lives with his Mum in the quiet fishing village of Muridaan Falls, Symoca. His life takes an unexpected turn when he learns his best friend Sophia Mouse is not only from another planet, but is also a member of the Shapers Guild, a group of powerful mice who are able to convert their thoughts into physical objects.

Ana’s Dream of Flying by Mary R. Woldering

Ana, a young girl in Tennessee in the 1960’s, discovers the truth about her art, it’s connection to other realms. Something from beyond Earth is watching her as it searches for the pieces of her shattered soul. Tonight, when she thinks she is dreaming, it will take her flying, to remind her of the time when they were Gods.

My books can be found by following the link below.

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LITTLE FREE LIBRARY:

photo:Farragutful

Maybe you’ve seen these little library boxes in your neighborhood. They started popping up in 2009 and have spread throughout the country. Anyone can borrow a book or donate books. With the Covid crisis, many schools and libraries are closed. These small libraries can help kids (and adults, too) continue to read through the coming months. I ordered a bunch of my books and placed them in my communities’ libraries. Check out the map on their website to find a library in your neighborhood.

https://littlefreelibrary.org/

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BOOKS ON PANDEMICS:

1918 Flu

With the outbreak of Covid19, so much of media coverage is quick to point out how little is known. Events are unfolding quickly, and guidance is becoming more and more fine-tuned. I wondered if anything could be learned from the past. In the recent past, I can recall reading only one book set in the time of the 1918 flu pandemic. It is the first one I list below. From what I remember, the author did a good job setting the stage with what was going on during that crisis. My grandmother would have been 12 then and I wish I’d had the foresight to ask her what she remembered of the time. Certainly, no one anticipated how the disease would spread or how devastating its consequences were going to be. Below are some books to spark your interest in another time this nation faced crisis.  

In the Shadow of Blackbirds- Cat Winters

“In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. At her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love–a boy who died in battle–returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?”

Pharmacy Girl: The Great War, Spanish Influenza, and the Truth About Billy Detwiler- Kate Szegda

“Everyone likes Josie, except the spoiled and arrogant Billy Detwiler. He calls her Pharmacy Girl, but it is no compliment. As the hazy days of September 1918 drift into the deadly autumn of Spanish influenza, twelve-year-old Josie Winslow’s everyday problems of school and friends, even the war effort at home, become insignificant as everyone battles the epidemic. Josie’s parents try to isolate her from the flu, but Josie is no slacker. She faces Billy in a class election, raises money for the Liberty Loan, and steps up to help the family when her mother comes down with influenza. Josie catches the flu after helping the people she loves—and hates—to survive.”

This Time of Dying-Reina James

“It is October 1918, and England is gathering its dead. For Henry Speake, of Speake & Son Undertakers, laying to rest the shattered bodies of young men sent home from the front has become a grimly familiar duty. But then a country already reeling from war faces an unexpected shock: an epidemic. The Spanish influenza will kill more people than World War I, and more people than the fourteenth-century bubonic plague. There is no cure, no help from the government, not even a clear sense of what is happening—but more and more people keep getting sick, and strangely enough, it is often the young and healthy ones who die.”

Fever Year- Don Brown (Graphic Novel)

“New Year’s Day, 1918. America has declared war on Germany and is gathering troops to fight. But there’s something coming that is deadlier than any war.
 
When people begin to fall ill, most Americans don’t suspect influenza. The flu is known to be dangerous to the very old, young, or frail. But the Spanish flu is exceptionally violent. Soon, thousands of people succumb. Then tens of thousands . . . hundreds of thousands and more. Graves can’t be dug quickly enough.
 
What made the influenza of 1918 so exceptionally deadly—and what can modern science help us understand about this tragic episode in history? With a journalist’s discerning eye for facts and an artist’s instinct for true emotion, Sibert Honor recipient Don Brown sets out to answer these questions and more in Fever Year.”

As Bright as Heaven- Susan Meissner

“In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters—Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa—a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without—and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.”

The Last Town on Earth- Thomas Mullen

1918 flu epidemic-
“Deep in the mist-shrouded forests of the Pacific Northwest is a small mill town called Commonwealth, conceived as a haven for workers weary of exploitation. For Philip Worthy, the adopted son of the town’s founder, it is a haven in another sense–as the first place in his life he’s had a loving family to call his own.

And yet, the ideals that define this outpost are being threatened from all sides. A world war is raging, and with the fear of spies rampant, the loyalty of all Americans is coming under scrutiny. Meanwhile, another shadow has fallen across the region in the form of a deadly illness striking down vast swaths of surrounding communities.

When Commonwealth votes to quarantine itself against contagion, guards are posted at the single road leading in and out of town, and Philip Worthy is among them. He will be unlucky enough to be on duty when a cold, hungry, tired–and apparently ill–soldier presents himself at the town’s doorstep begging for sanctuary. The encounter that ensues, and the shots that are fired, will have deafening reverberations throughout Commonwealth, escalating until every human value–love, patriotism, community, family, friendship–not to mention the town’s very survival, is imperiled.”

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YA Series Concluding

Publishers Weekly has reported on several bestselling series which concluded this fall. It might be a great time to dig into one of these since you’ll no longer have to wait for the last book. Although I’ve read Neal Schusterman and Kendare Blake, I’m unfamiliar with their latest works. I must admit, these seem pretty dark but maybe winter calls for these dark tales…

Neal Schusterman- author of Unwind, Everlost, and Downsiders, and many others. He also writes screenplays for movies and TV (including Goosebumps & Animorphs).

His latest series is called Arc of the Scythe (trilogy). In a time when humanity has solved hunger, disease, war, and death, only the Scythes can end life and keep the population under control. Two reluctant apprentices, Citra and Rowan struggle to learn their craft and requisite lessons.

Kendare Blake- author of Anna Dressed in Blood and Antigoddess.

Her latest series is titled the Three Dark Crowns. On the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplet sisters is born. Each possesses a special kind of magic. The night the sisters turn sixteen, a battle to the death for the throne begins.  

Holly Black- author of The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Tony DiTerlizzi), The Modern Faerie Tale series, the Curse Workers series, Doll Bones, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, the Magisterium series (with Cassandra Clare) and The Darkest Part of the Forest.

Her latest series is called The Folk of the Air (trilogy). Jude and her two sisters are stolen to live among the fey. Eventually, Jude becomes entangled in royal faerie matters.

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WHAT I’M WORKING ON


If you follow my blogs, Facebook, or Twitter feeds, I’m sure it looks like I’m not doing a whole lot. But since being back in country (since late Oct.) things have been very busy. Personal challenges continue— my mother died in April and the house hunt continues.

Timeless Tulips, Dark Diamonds, my new book was released this spring. Since the publisher does not have ebook rights, I’ll be releasing an ebook this fall. It will be an expanded version of the print book with additional material. My goal is to release this in time for Halloween since it’s a ghost story. Stay tuned for more on that.

The most coveted tulip during Tulipmania: Semper Augustus- could sell for as much as a grand canal house!

Additionally, I’m working on a new novel that’s about three quarters complete. No title yet. This has been a fun book to work on. It’s required some research into the history of Colorado’s start and the history of tuberculosis (the White Plague). The book is a visionary tale about girl who grows up in a 19th century, Colorado town known for its dry climate and healing waters. With a father in the mortuary business, Tallulah has always been around TB and death. Tally’s mother died when she was born, and she longs to know more about the woman who should have raised her. Two peculiar town residents, who Tally is warned to give wide berth, sisters Dottie and Lottie (rumor has it) can speak to the dead. Can Tally persuade them to help her? I’m hoping to finish this by the end of the year. Add your title ideas in the comments section. PLEASE!!

TB sufferers taking the open air cure.

Another manuscript I’ve been sitting on for a while, I think I’m going to self-publish soon. The Greening of the Laurel is a visionary, YA book in thriller mode.  Ryan’s junior year is turned upside down by a series of bizarre visions and freaky encounters with fire. Eventually, Ryan ends up in the ER. He finally comes face to face with the man who claims to have all the answers. But how can quantum physics and timeless spiritual mysteries be colliding with Ryan at the center of it all? Can he really believe he had a past as a medieval heretic where he hid what has become known as the lost Cathar treasure, a manuscript containing the hidden truth underlying the universe? Can he trust a secret society that claims to need his help if science is to move forward?

photo: Kaktus
(Montsegur- Cathar stronghold until the final battle of 1244)

Not at first, but as events threaten his family, Ryan returns to southern France to find the document he once allegedly hid. In 1244, he watched two hundred of his countrymen burn as he and two others slipped away in the night carrying a manuscript the world desperately needs. Surrounding Ryan are members of the Green Laurel, back to ensure his safety. Also, back are the dark forces of the Church who want nothing more than to exterminate the remnants of the Cathars and the truth the future requires. Without the manuscript, science cannot advance. A single unified theory will never be found and, all along, Ryan’s very existence remains in peril.      

And although I’ve never had any luck with picture books, I’m currently circulating a manuscript with agents starring Mona Lisa. A cute story, but no bites yet!  

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BOOKS FOR THE 4th OF JULY

Look for these books at your library or purchase from your favorite vendor.

THE GOOD FIGHT by Anne Quirk

“George Washington vs. King George. Benjamin Franklin vs. his son William. John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson. Alexander Hamilton vs. everyone!
 
Join author Anne Quirk and illustrator Elizabeth Baddeley as they referee four fascinating historical throw-downs between the founding fathers . . . and prove that the United States of America is a place worth fighting for.”

ALEXANDER HAMILTON- THE OUTSIDER by Jean Fritz

“Acclaimed biographer Jean Fritz writes the remarkable story of Alexander Hamilton, one of America’s most influential and fascinating founding fathers, and his untimely death in a duel with Aaron Burr.

Born in the British West Indies, Hamilton arrived in New York as an “outsider.” He fought in the Revolution and became Washington’s most valuable aidede- camp. He was there with Washington, Madison, and the others writing the Constitution. He was the first Secretary of the Treasury as the country struggled to become unified and independent.”

IN SEARCH OF MOLLY PITCHER by Linda Grant De Pauw

“When Peggy McAllister learns about the Rattletop Award for “excellence in eighth grade social studies,” she is determined to win it with a research paper on a Great American Hero. But when she chooses Molly Pitcher, the famous Revolutionary War heroine of the Battle of Monmouth, as her subject, she runs into difficulties. With the help of her Greatgramps, a retired private investigator, his lady friend Mrs. Spinner, a local historian and secret author of historical romance novels, and Ms. Guelphstein, a dedicated reference librarian, Peggy sorts through a maze of confusing and contradictory evidence to identify the “real” Molly Pitcher.”

JOHNNY TREMAIN by Esther Forbes

“Fourteen-year-old Johnny Tremain, an apprentice silversmith with a bright future ahead of him, injures his hand in a tragic accident, forcing him to look for other work. In his new job as a horse-boy, riding for the patriotic newspaper, The Boston Observer, and as a messenger for the Sons of Liberty, he encounters John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Dr. Joseph Warren. Soon Johnny is involved in the pivotal events shaping the American Revolution from the Boston Tea Party to the first shots fired at Lexington.”

BACKYARD BALLISTICS by William Gurstelle

“This bestselling DIY handbook now features new and expanded projects, enabling ordinary folks to construct 16 awesome ballistic devices in their garage or basement workshops using inexpensive household or hardware store materials and this step-by-step guide. …This book will be indispensable for the legions of backyard toy-rocket launchers and fireworks fanatics who wish every day was the fourth of July.”

https://amzn.to/30oq1NL