Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-07-10 
Review Score: 5 out of 5 star From 0 user ratings

"Non-fiction texts can often be dry and boring, but Barton’s use of narrative elements keeps Dazzle Ships fresh and exciting, making a historical tale come to life. The book begins and ends with great information included in the backmatter. It gives context to the book as well as a timeline of WWI. Barton also includes an Author’s Note which describes his decision making process as he chose which parts of the story to include and which parts to leave out. Interestingly, Barton left out details of famous world leaders who were involved, yet chose to incorporate the role that women played in designing and painting the ships.

The illustrations are nothing short of gorgeous! The amount of detail is phenomenal as Ngai supplements Barton’s narrative through illustrations. My favorite spread was the illustration in which soldiers were placed on a map in order to depict where the war was being fought and who was fighting. Patterns are also used consistently throughout the book on the ships and in other areas as well. The illustrations have a modern feel to them, making events that took place one hundred years ago relatable and engaging, particularly for young readers.

WWI is often glazed over in school, particularly in the elementary grades. Additionally, there is sometimes the perception that art has no practical purpose in society. This book proves that perception to be incorrect and is a fascinating introduction to this topic, while still beautiful enough to enjoy.
" said.

"It is truly amazing that something so funny and spectacular is not in our mainstream history books. Dazzle Ships is a fascinating book about how innovation and art were married in WWI. German U- Boats were sinking too many of the United Kingdom's ships. These ships carried food to Britain. Britain began to suffer during the war and was almost forced to surrender so that its people could eat. The UK became desperate to stop its much needed ships from sinking. A man named Norman Wilkinson had all the connections he needed to have his idea to save Britain’s ships heard. His idea was to create ships painted in wild colors and patterns to confuse the men looking through periscopes at the ships from U- Boats. This would, hopefully, make the U- boats aim in the wrong direction wasting their torpedoes. It cannot be proven that this is the reason that the Allies won the war or were even saved at all by the ships’ new paint job. It certainly is fun to learn about, and Victo Ngai’s illustrations make it that much better. She brings in excellent examples of camouflage throughout the whole book just to get the idea of dazzle ships across to the reader. Chris Barton did a great job as well, picking and choosing what information was necessary to drive the story and what facts could be done away with for the sake of the book. My eyes are little tired after looking at the book for a while, but overall this book is great for many different age groups to learn from." said.

"This nonfiction picture book is the story of “dazzle ships” and how they were used during World War I. We learn about the issues the British Empire was experiencing due to U-boats (German submarines) and the various solutions that were dreamed up to avoid more sinking boats. Dazzle boats were a unique way of camouflaging ships to disguise their precise location and traveling direction. This made it more difficult for U-boats to determine where to send a torpedo from far away.

There’s an important Author’s Note in the back discussing nonfiction research. Barton mentioned famous people who were not included in the book, provided a timeline of WWI, and briefly discussed the very little we know of the women who were part of these dazzle ships. Several black and white photos are included along with a bibliography for further reading. While Victo Ngai (the illustrator) is already a Forbes 30 Under 30 honoree and Society of Illustrators NY Gold Medalist, this is her debut picture book. The artwork in this book was created using mixed analog and digital media.

What an interesting piece of history this is! These tidbits are what help bring alive history lessons — we see past humans grappling with and solving problems. Even older students would find this fascinating. Dazzle Ships is a 2018 NCTE Orbis Pictus Honor Book and a junior library guild selection.

For more kidlit, MGlit, and YAlit book reviews, please visit my book review blog: The Miller Memo.
" said.

"When German U-boat attacks on cargo ships during WWI started causing residents of England to worry about shortages of materials, the UK started looking for ways to cut down on the number of ships sunk by torpedoes. Norman Wilkinson came to the government with the idea to camouflage the ships with designs that would confuse U-boat captains as to which direction the ship was headed. The government liked the idea and Wilkinson and a workforce of female artists started creating designs and painting ships. The idea was also adopted by the US and soon thousands of dazzle ships were sailing the seas using their crazy paint jobs to fool submarines.

I had never heard about dazzle ships before reading this book. It was a fascinating look at a creative attempt to solve a problem, highlights an often overlooked aspect of WWI, provides a historic look at the role of camouflage in war, looks at uses of optical illusions, and how artwork can have practical applications beyond aesthetics including psychological benefits. The retro art style of the illustrations fit the time period and topic perfectly. I can definitely see art classes using this and of course history classes. It would also be a good nonfiction pick for kids who are fascinated by optical illusions. And language arts teachers, you really need to read the author’s note on the research process in the back. It is a fantastic look at the research process of an author. Share it with students before they jump into doing research.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
" said.

"I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
During World War One, the island nation of Great Britain was faced with a dreadful problem: feeding her people. German U Boats were sinking their ships, making it nearly impossible to import food. Britain was desperate for a solution (even considering training sea lions to spot the U Boats) that would prevent their people from starving and allow them to stay in the war. Enter Lieutenant-Commander Norman Wilkinson and his idea of camouflage.
Wilkinson suggested painting ships in such a way that enemy submarines couldn’t figure out the direction they were headed, thus preventing them from setting an accurate course for a torpedo. Deciding to give Wilkinson’s plan a try, the British government christened it ‘Dazzle’ and set about painting their ships in multi-colored and outrageous patterns. Even King George V was stumped by the Dazzle Ships, and he was a professional sailor!
I always assumed that battleships were always grey, so reading Dazzle Ships was a bit of a surprise to me. As always, Chris Barton (a repeat on the Texas Bluebonnet Award list) did an excellent job of shedding some light on a little known historical figure. The text is easy for young readers to understand, quite the accomplishment when dealing with something as complex as the First World War. Victo Ngai’s illustrations are superb. I like the personification of national symbols used to show the conflict; it makes it a bit more ‘child friendly’ than a battle field scene would. I enjoyed looking for Ngai’s symbol on each page as well!
" said.

" I first learned about this beautifully innovative deception in the longer middle-grade book Double Cross by Paul B. Janeczko. For older readers, like this one, it opens eyes to the desperate problem-solving done in so many ways to help win wars.
This time Chris Barton tells the story from World War I of the need to stop Germany from torpedoing ships of war or those carrying goods to the United Kingdom. Suddenly, the war's loss seemed imminent if something wasn't changed to help those ships. The UK depends on food and other needed items brought in because it is an island, and Germany hoped to starve them into defeat. Things such as training seals to alert for submarines (really!) were considered, but once a lieutenant-commander named Norman Wilkinson introduced the idea of painting ships to confuse the enemy about a ship's speed and direction, and he convinced the king himself, the idea was carried out. Many people contributed to this work, artists and other workers, too. The endnotes give the statistics of about 3,000 ships painted by the UK and 1,256 by the U.S. No one has a way to prove that it indeed helped, but the U-boat attacks stopped and Germany eventually surrendered. Barton tells the story in step by step brief paragraphs, highlighting important parts that occurred. There is an extensive author's note that adds to the information and a timeline.
In addition to this interesting story of the extreme problem-solving that happens when trying to win a war, Victo Ngai offers daring full-page illustrations that seem to mirror ocean waves. The swirls of color (see the cover) amaze as he illustrates the big ideas to accompany Barton's words. Each double-page highlights one part of the story's words, with the smaller details included. For example, when the early distress of possible starvation is discussed, a warrior is shown huddling over children with empty bowls, a tipped pitcher, broken plates. Swirling in the water are sinking ships with a larger periscope "eye" looking on. It and others serve as powerful illustrations of the story. It's a terrific book.
" said.

"A kids' picture-book on WWI?! On painting ships?!? At first glance those may not seem like obvious topics for a young kid. But if you think about how much many kids like trains, trucks, planes, and, yes, ships, and how much kids like playing with paint, then it starts to click. And it's a great piece of history, with art and military science coming together. I've seen and read a fair amount on the "dazzle ships" so this wasn't new to me, but it's really well told -- and truly extraordinarily well illustrated! I mean, every page here would be stunning as a painting hung on the wall, they're that gorgeous. I like that there are several pages at the end with more information, references, and notes from the author and illustrator. This is a book that I would've loved as a kid!" said.

" Visually striking, contextually grounded (other artists and life scientists interested in protective coloring, optical illusions and trompe l'oeil) story of the attempts to torpedo-proof WWI British ships. " said.

July 2018 New Book:

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