Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - Dazzle Ships 7.26.17

Every Wednesday I join Alyson Beecher from kidlitfrenzy and other
kidlit bloggers to share wonderful nonfiction picture books.
The intention of today's blog post is to give professionals that work in the
education field new nonfiction reading material and ideas to use 
with students to promote a love of reading nonfiction materials.

It was last year at NCTE that Chris first told me about this book.  I was intrigued as soon as started telling me about it - ships that were camouflaged, well, dazzled, in World War I.  I couldn't wait to read it!

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion
Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion
written by Chris Barton
illustrated by Victo Ngai
published by Millbrook Press
September 1st

Goodreads summary
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.

My thoughts
First of all, I like the way Barton talks to the reader - asking questions and commenting.  It makes you feel as if he is drawing the reader closer, getting ready to share a secret.  A secret in camouflaging!  He keeps the storyline tight by focusing on the one person, Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve lieutenant-commander, Norman Wilkinson, who really brought the idea of camouflaging to the attention of the Navy.  Both Britain's Royal Navy and the United States Navy used this form of intelligence to protect the ships from the German u-boats.  I remember learning about these underwater submarines and how for a long time these boats were making a difference in who was dominating the war.  Yet another piece of history that would interest the students... perhaps more than the textbook?

The illustrations by Victo Ngai are fascinating.  I really like the choice of media and although done digitally, it almost looks like it was done in colored pencil.  I felt like this spotlighted the artistry of the camouflage.

I appreciated the spotlight on the women who worked on this project.  Again, I knew briefly from studies the role of women had when they were needed to fill the jobs that had been left empty when men went off to war.  It was interesting to note that not only did women have a role painting the boats, but they also were key in designing the camouflage patterns models that were used by the painters.

And like many other events in history, certain facts are not always substantiated and Barton references this.  While the dazzled ships were instrumental in turning the tide of the war, Barton does note that it cannot be proven if the dazzled ships are what saved the British fleet from the u-boats.  After reading a book like this, I had further questions and appreciated the extensive information found in the backmatter.  The photograph of the actual boats should not be missed!

The story is wrapped up by looking at the big picture of dazzle ships.  They were certainly a new concept and one that required some out of the box thinking.  While the need for dazzle ships changed as technology improved, the concept of thinking creatively is important, and is sure to 'dazzle' a new idea somewhere in the future!

Dazzle Ships is a book that will be going on my Mock Sibert list, for sure!  I can't wait to share this book with students this fall.  Add this book to your library on September 1st!

Thank you to Chris and Lerner Publishing for the review copy!


  1. I know of this book, and it sounds wonderful, Michele. In the book "Double Cross", Janeczo mentions this technique. I'll look for the book at my library to read more! Thanks!

  2. Oh my goodness, that cover alone looks fantastic!! I can't wait to find a copy of this one - I love books that really help bringing history to life for young readers.

  3. I can't wait to read this book. I hadn't realized there was a biographical element in it. Even more excited now!

  4. This really looks interesting. This is not a subject I knew anything about and I'm eager to learn for sure.

  5. So excited for this one! That cover is just stunning!