Friday, April 20, 2018

PPBF: Dazzle Ships

And now on to today's Perfect Picture Book Friday pick*

Dazzle Ships, by Chris Barton and Victo Ngai
Dazzle Ships
WWI and the Art of Confusion 

Written Chris Barton
Illustrated by Victo Ngai

Millbrook Press, Lerner Publishing, 2017
Grades 2-5, 36 pp
990L, ATOS 6.10

WWI, Art history, Biography

One of the ships on this page is painted in sneaky, stripy camouflage.
You probably can't even see it?
Oh. You can see it?

Dazzle Ships is my favorite kind of non-fiction. It covers history biography and a bit of legend. The book introduces important concepts about the First World War by focusing on the devastating effect of German torpedoes on British ships and the desperate attempts by Norman WIlkinson to convince the navy to use reverse camouflage. The highly-imaginative illustrations dazzle with their interpretation of countries as characters, the creative colorschemes, and the almost graphic novel-like storytelling.

Modern dazzle ship recreation via 1418Now, Scotland
The method of painting dazzle ships to confuse the enemy periscope sighters and the desperate plight of the civilians of the British isles are all thoroughly explained.

With additional notes and a timeline included in the back matter, this book provides the ideal doorway to exploration of a larger subject.

What I Love:
Dazzle Ships is a delight. The subject matter and the artist treatment are both unique. The author includes a well-rounded picture of history in an interesting way which will capture both newbies and history buffs. While the illustrations are extremely stylized, the artist uses them to make the story crystal clear. Some may not like the fantastic treatment, but I think her idea is genius.

The one drawback was the way the author revealed the doubtful results of the dazzle painting, almost as an afterthought in the last page of the story. While I appreciate the author's honesty, I think he could have presented in a different way. As a reader, I was caught up in dazzle fever, just like the British and Americans. When the author reveals the whole idea may not have made a difference, I wonder why I even bothered to read the book!

Just tweaking the tone of his revelation would have swayed me to give this book the full five stars. Nevertheless, I think in the hands of a parent pr teacher, an inquisitive child is going to be fascinated, to learn to think outside the box, and to be inspired to change the world.

You'll find all the picture book nominees for the CYBILS Award* on Perfect Picture Book Fridays. Here's what you may have missed so far:
Hatching Chicks in Room 6
Once Upon A Jungle

Striped inside and out, t
his cupcake recipe from Eats Amazing
could be turned into dazzle ships!
1. The Best Children's Books has compiled a tidy list of picture books and middle grade choices centering on the Great War era.

2. Animal camouflage would be a fascinating study to go along with this book. For some top picture books, try Secrets of Animal Camouflage, by Carron Brown, Animal Camouflage, by Sarah Dennis and Sam Hutchinson, Animals Undercover, by Madeleine Fortescue, Hidden in Plain Sight, by Elsie Belback, and What Color Is Camouflage?, by Carolyn Otto and Megan Lloyd, to name a few.

3. Find more about wartime camouflage on Kiddle.

4. There's more to the man who designed dazzle ships than a commission from the British Navy. Meet the artist on The Vintage Poster and at Darnley Fine Art.

5. In case you missed the other CYBILS Award finalist reviews, I've included the links below:
Hatching Chicks in Room 6
Once Upon A Jungle
Shark Lady

6. Check out these and more Perfect Picture Books at your local library.

Reviewed by Susanna
Reviewed by Kathy

Reviewed by Kristen
Reviewed by Jarm

Reviewed by Joanne
Reviewed by Joanne

Have you reviewed a Perfect Picture Book along this theme? Please leave the link in the comments below. Thanks!

Check out all the recommended titles for Perfect Picture Book Friday
for Friday, April 20, 2018 available on Susanna Leonard Hill's blog.

*As a CYBILS second round judge, I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.


  1. The illustrations are amazing! I'm off to the library in a few minutes. I hope they have a copy of this book.

    1. I hope to see more from this illustrator soon. Each page was a work of art. Thanks.

  2. I just read this last month and was dazzled by those painted ships! What a way to hide things.

    1. I loved hearing the whole story. It's a great addition to any bookshelf. Thanks.

  3. Replies
    1. Very designerly. (Is that a word?) Make sure you check it out. Thanks.

  4. Wow! Amazing story. Thanks for sharing.

    1. There are a lot of great details and the writing style is very casual. Enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I love this book, and so does my son!

    1. I couldn't wait to read it from the first day I heard about it. It's altogether lovely. I'm glad to hear your son likes audience!!!

  6. I have seen this book highlighted before, but I haven't read it. I added it to my library list. I love non-fiction. Despite the wrench the author threw in at the end, it sounds like an interesting read.

    1. I think it is worthwhile, but the"wrench" may turn a few readers off. Luckily, it comes at the end! Maybe it will make kids explore for more information. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Learned something new. Never heard about painting dazzle ships to confuse the enemy periscope sighter. Clever. Love nonfiction!

    1. I don't think I knew much about them. This book is packed with interesting tidbits. Check it out! Thanks.


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