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Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  887 ratings  ·  255 reviews
This nonfiction picture book explores art, desperation, and one man's incredible idea for saving ships from German torpedoes in World War I. Dazzle camouflage transformed ordinary British and American ships into eye-popping masterpieces. ...more
ebook, 40 pages
Published September 1st 2017 by Millbrook Press (Tm) (first published 2017)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is stunning. The gorgeous cover caught my attention while I was cataloging it, and I had to pause to read through. I can't decide which element of it is the best (that's a lie, it's obviously the spectacular illustrations)—but the subject itself is fascinating, and even the author's and illustrator's notes were more than usually interesting. Chris Barton talks about the process of research, the way it always leads to more questions, the way photographs can omit or obscure facts, and ex ...more
What you'll notice first about this book is THIS ILLUSTRATOR. Sophisticated wavy lines weave and undulate like ribbons across the page, mimicking light on water, cloud shadows, and the dazzle patterns that camouflaged British and U.S. ships.

Then the story kicks in, and you may be blown away by the audacity of the idea of dazzle. Instead of painting these ships with camouflage that duplicates natural colors and patterns, dazzle ships were high-contrast and largely geometric. Like giant metal caro
It's funny, because only a month ago did I get my first hint about WWI ship camouflage from reading "Dead Wake." Here is a nonfiction picture book with much more detail, with unique illustrations by Victo Ngai. Who could have guessed that a successful method of making ships harder to torpedo would be not painting them to blend in, but dazzling the eye with wild designs that made their speed and direction hard to determine? A cool mix of art and technology. Don't miss the author's note and resour ...more
Liza Wiemer
Very interesting, beautiful illustrations, a lot of text, but it's needed. I can see kids interested in history, war, transportation, art, camouflage being fascinated by this story. A great addition to picture books. Excellent for ALL ages. ...more
Alyson (Kid Lit Frenzy)
One of Barton's best. And the illustrations are gorgeous. ...more
Michele Knott
I can't wait to have more time with this amazing book later this summer. Do not miss this book!

Yet another picture book that should be used in middle grade classrooms as they learn about this time period. What a fascinating piece of history that would go along with the lecture on the German U-boats.
Sep 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pbnf-900
Maybe I would have liked history classes more if the teachers had included interesting tidbits like these dazzle ships, and the story of the bear that became Winnie-the-Pooh. Instead they trotted out boring details like dates, countries involved, battles fought, etc., making history for me, at least, a dry and dusty subject.
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
During World War I, Great Britain wanted to find a way to protect their supply ships from German U-Boats. Norman Wilkinson decided to camouflage ships by painting confusing, or dazzling, designs on them. I especially love Chris Barton's author's note in which he describe how curiosity drives his research process.

Recommended for grades 4 - 6.
Margaret Sankey
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
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. ...more
Josephine Sorrell
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A quick and informative book about a little known fact of WWI.
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book I chose for my intermediate non-fictional pick was titled “Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion,” written by Chis Barton and illustrated by Victo Ngai. Social studies and art would be the content-area crossover for this particular non-fiction book. The social studies aspect of the lesson plan could be broken up into history and world geography. Using the history from the book, the teacher can educate the students with questions like: what year did the “Great War” start and ...more
Alex  Baugh
During WWI, the Germans had a real advantage over their enemies, Britain and the United States. They had perfected the use of submarines from which they could launch torpedoes, making their enemies ships literal sitting ducks. Britain was especially desperate to find a solution to the sinking of ships, both military and non-military, since, as an island, they relied on boats to bring them much of what they needed, especially food, and so far, nothing has worked.

That is, until Norman Wilkinson, a
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing

Barton, Chris. (2017). Dazzle ships: World War I and the art of confusion. Brookfield, CT: Millbrook Press.

Possible subject crossover: History

Remembering Question: Recall the different colors used to paint the ships.

Understanding Question: What was the purpose of painting ships this way?

Applying Question: Could this type of ship camouflage work today? Why or why not?

Analyzing Question: Explain how the “dazzling” made it difficult to tell what directions the ships were heading.

Susan Morris
Sep 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s
Excellent book! Written for young readers, but everyone could learn a tremendous amount from this book. Besides the wonderful text, the design & illustrations are excellent as well. The author's note is top-rate as well. Must use this with 5th grade. But this would be great for high school history class discussions. (Library) ...more
Dec 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the ships that were painted during World War I in order to confuse German U-boats that we’re sinking all vessels headed toward the UK. I wasn’t aware of this practice and found the story to be quite intriguing. They do not have proof that it made a difference, but what an interesting true story of “desperate times calling for desperate measures!”
Mrs. Mazzola
Art deco style, optical illusions, maritime/war history that is engaging and approachable -- this book was dazzling! The art is stunning and it presents just the right amount of information about WWI to be accessible to students who are less familiar with the topic and still interesting to those that have some background knowledge. And, it was brand new information for me, which I love reading.
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great message and proof that the whole makerspace movement is nothing new: "Times change. Technology changes....But a willingness to tackle problems by trying the unlikely, the improbable, the seemingly bonkers will always be needed." Fascinating topic by Chris Barton and a RI School of Design illustrator make this a winning combination. ...more
I had absolutely no clue that these ships existed. This is a great story about British and American ships that were painted with dazzling designs in order to confuse U-boat commanders in WWI. Wonderful!
I heard the same 99% Invisible podcast as Chris Barton, and I'm so glad he ran with the information. Recommended to the RICBA committee. ...more
Feb 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
I had no idea. The things one earns from children's books. ...more
Michelle Gray
This excellent book about a little known practice to camouflage during WWI would be a great read aloud in a history class.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Great illustrations and interesting facts presented. The beginning of the book is a bit dry which may prevent a child from continuing with it. Limited appeal.
Shannon Kamph
May 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Thank you for this informative, interesting book worth reading and looking at for an 11 year old boy!
Justin Hill
Feb 08, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book when I searched my library for an early OMD album of the same name. Now I know what dazzle ships were and I am going to work this knowledge into multiple upcoming conversations.
Dec 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mock-caldecott
Caldecott Read!

Based on the illustrations alone, this book is PERFECTION. I was just mesmerized by each page. This could be my pick for the winner!
Oct 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, art, children-ya
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 wel ...more
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Truly dazzling (and informative to boot). How did I go through almost two decades of education and never know about project Dazzle during WWII? Will definitely add this to my shortlist of party trivia.
John Plowright
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
The British tried all manner of means in the First World War to combat the U-boat menace and particularly the threat posed by unrestricted submarine warfare. These included depth charges, catapult planes, Q-ships (decoy merchant ships with concealed weaponry) and the convoy system. However, the most imaginative innovation was the development of dazzle camouflage: Norman Wilkinson’s counter-intuitive idea that by painting ships in bold colours and patterns it would make them less rather than more ...more
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
There are so many things to love about this book. First of all, it is visually stunning. It demands to be picked up. There is no way a human being could look at this book and not want to learn more! Thank you, illustrator Victo Ngai, for making this book irresistible to reluctant readers.

Secondly, the story is fascinating. I admire Chris Barton's editor for bringing the idea to him of creating a picture book about ship camouflage in WWI and for his expression of slowly-accruing belief in her ide
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I'm the author of picture books including bestseller Shark vs. Train, Sibert Honor-winning The Day-Glo Brothers, and Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson's Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, which was included on 21 state reading lists.

My newest books include Fire Truck vs. Dragon, All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing, What Do You Do with a Voice Like That? The Story of

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