Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton and Illustrated by Victo Ngai

Dazzle Ships

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton and illustrated by Victo Ngai

ISBN-13: 978-1512410143
Publisher: Millbrook Press (September 1, 2017)
Grade Level: 2-5
Lexile Measure: 990
WorldCat Permalink: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/959922769
Starred Reviews: School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly

Summary and Thoughts

Chris Barton has written about the little known subject, especially for the elementary age group this is intended, of camouflaged World War I ships.  He starts off with brief information about World War I, just enough for this age level to grasp what is going on at this time, and then focuses on the development of these dazzling ships.  The people of the United Kingdom were facing extreme food shortage due to their merchant ships that carried their imported food being sunk by German submarines.  British Lieutenant-Commander Norman Wilkinson devised a plan to disguise British merchant ships and warships by painting them with bold patterns and colors.  His thought was that this design would help confuse the enemy’s submarines from visualizing which way the British ships were going.  The United States also ended up painting some of their vessels (more than 1,200) with these dazzling designs.

The starred review from School Library Journal states, ” The well-written, intriguing text is complemented by Ngai’s vibrant and surreal illustrations that skillfully recreate the glittering water and the striking camouflaged vessels. Students will appreciate the information, while taking in the amazing artwork” (Nunes 114).  I would have to agree with their positive review.  I was immediately drawn to Ngai’s beautiful artwork.  I feel that it really makes this book.  Check out some of the examples, seen below.  This book will make a great addition to a library’s nonfiction collection as there does not seem to be many books that focus on this subject matter for this grade level.


Illustration representing the food shortage in the United Kingdom with sinking merchant ships

Dazzle Ships by Chris Barton and Victo Ngai

King George V was fooled by Wilkinson’s dazzling ships

Dazzle Ships by Chris Barton and Victo Ngai

Ngai’s amazing artwork echoes the dazzle designs of the ships throughout the book’s design

Suggestions for Further Reading 

Fearless Flyers, Dazzle Painters, and Code Talkers: World War I (2018) by Elizabeth Dennis and Valerio Fabbretti – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/989964036

DK Eyewitness Books: World War I (2014) Simon Adams – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/989925150

Technology During World War I (2016) by Joanne Mattern – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/993752125

Submarines (2015) by Joanne Mattern – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/905521723

Eye Benders: The Science of Seeing & Believing (2014) by Clive Gifford – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/857803474

Now You See It, Now You Don’t: The Amazing World of Optical Illusions (1988) by Seymour Simon – http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/455945632

Additional Resources for Parents, Teachers and Librarians

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Learn more about the author on their webpage: http://www.chrisbarton.info/

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Free lesson plans about optical illusions for grades 3-5: https://www.theartofed.com/lesson-plans/op-art-optical-illusions/

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Free lesson plan ideas: http://www.scholastic.com/browse/lessonplan.jsp?id=1428

Free lesson plan on optical illusions for grades 3-12: http://students.washington.edu/nbout/LessonPlans/visualillusions.pdf

Additional Resources for Kids

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.53.50 PMLearn more about World War I and take a quiz: https://www.dkfindout.com/us/history/world-war-i/

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Learn more about Wilkinson and his dazzling idea on this BBC iWonder webpage: http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zty8tfr

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Learn more amazing facts about World War I on this website that also offers many great photos from that time period:  https://www.natgeokids.com/uk/discover/history/general-history/first-world-war/

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Want to learn more about optical illusions?  Check out this website:  http://www.optics4kids.org/home/content/illusions/

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More cool optical illusions! http://brainden.com/optical-illusions.htm


Works Cited:

Barton, Chris and Victo Ngai. Dazzle Ship: World War I and the Art of Confusion. Minneapolis: Millbrook Press, 2017. Print.

Nunes, Margaret. “Book Review: Dazzle Ships”. School Library Journal. 01 Aug. 2017. Vol 63, issue 8, p114.




Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom by Suzi Eszterhas

moto and me

Moto and Me: My Year as a Wildcat’s Foster Mom by Suzi Eszterhas
ISBN-13: 978-1771472425
Publisher: Owlkids (April 11, 2017)
Age Range: 7 – 10 years
Grade Level: 1 – 5
Lexile Measure: 860
WorldCat Permalink: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/954430102
Starred Reviews: Publishers Weekly and Kirkus

Summary and Thoughts

This book is adorable and I am sure that it will please most children!  What is there not to like about a sweet story about an animal rescue?  The author Suzi Eszterhas, wildlife photographer and author, was asked to be the foster mom to an abandoned serval, a type of African wildcat while on assignment at Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.  Moto was separated from his mother and siblings during a fire.  In fact, Moto’s name came from the Swahili word for “fire”.  This book chronicles through her amazing photography Eszterhas’ year raising this little orphan up until Moto is released back into the wild.

Moto and Me would make a wonderful addition to school or public library collections.  Animal books are always popular with children.  Kirkus’ Starred Review declares, “The inclusion of maps, a table of contents, and some general facts about servals make this far more than a sweet story; it’s a model of narrative nonfiction for the elementary-age audience. Not just for fans of cat pictures, this is an encouraging example of wildlife rescue and release with guaranteed child appeal” (Kirkus https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/suzi-eszterhas/moto-and-me/).

Eszterhas is also giving a portion of the royalties from this book to the Mara Conservancy to protect Moto’s home lands.

moto and me 2

moto and me 4

The author, Suzi Eszterhas, with Moto


Read a-Likes:

Additional Resources:

Check out this video about the author’s experiences with wildlife photography!

Suzi Eszterhas: Wildlife Photographer from National Wildlife Federation on Vimeo.

What Makes a Monster? by Jess Keating and illustrated by David DeGrand

cover 1

This cover is sure to grab a child’s attention!

What Makes a Monster?: Discovering the World’s Scariest Creatures by Jess Keating and illustrated by David De Grand

ISBN-13: 978-0553512304
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers (August 8, 2017)
Series: The World of Weird Animals
Age Range: 7 – 10 years
Grade Level: 1 – 4
WorldCat Permalink: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/953525401

Summary and Thoughts
The author of Pink is for Blobfish is back to inform young readers about more weird animals.  This time, she focuses on 17 creatures that are monstrous in either looks or behavior.  Emily Bayci states in her review for School Library Journal, “A great addition for collections where horror and animal fans dominate” (Emily Bayci: reviewed 07/01/2017 for School Library Journal, vol 63, issue 7, p100).  What library doesn’t have animal fans?!? Even though, this didn’t receive any starred reviews, I think that it would make a good purchase for the nonfiction collection.  It is a lot of fun for the kiddos who like things a little bit creepy.

Check out this opening page….

inside page 1

This will definitely be an attention-grabber for some children!  It kind of builds suspense but isn’t too scary, possibly due to the intensely bright and bold color scheme  Each of these monstrous creatures’ information are contained on a two page spread.  First page is the photograph introducing the “monster”.  The second page gives a paragraph description, fun fact, and sidebar with all the technical information about the creature, such as species name, diet, and habitat.
inside page 2

inside page 3

The author leaves the reader with something to ponder by introducing the last monster, humans.  She discusses, “our intelligence has allowed us to survive on every continent on the planet by developing tools to fend off predators and technology to improve our chances for survival” (Keating 2017).


What? Me, a MONSTER?!?

Also included at the end of this informational book are a couple pages of thought-provoking follow-up questions and a glossary.

Nonfiction recommendations for elementary-age kids who would like to learn more about unusual animals:
100 Most Feared Creatures on the Planet by Anna Claybourne (2013)
Guinness World Records: Incredible Animals by Christa Roberts (2016)
Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals by Charles Ghigna (2016)
Pink is for Blobfish by Jess Keating (2016)
Crooked Critters and Extreme Living from the Things that Make You Go Yuck! Series by Jenn Dlugos (2016)

Extension Activity

This fun website will delight kids who would like to learn some weird facts about animals. The website offers video clips too!

Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup

Bee: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup
ISBN-13: 978-1524715267
Publisher: Doubleday Books for Young Readers (January 31, 2017)
Age Range: 3 – 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 2
WorldCat Permalink: http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/970661324
My Goodreads Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Summary and Thoughts
When I was on a mission for my youth services class the other day looking for nonfiction read-aloud books, I ran across this beautiful book.  I love all things bees and honey, so I had to check this one out.  This is a very introductory level book about bees but would make for a perfect read-aloud.  The author uses simple, rhyming text to tell the story of one little bee’s daily travels as it goes about pollinating our world.  What is most appealing to me about this book is the artwork.  I really adore Teckentrup’s vivacious and vibrant artistic style and will definitely be on the lookout for more of her books!

Nonfiction Read-alikes and Recommendations:
Give Bees a Chance by Bethany Barton
Are You a Bee? (Backyard Books) by Judy Allen
Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski
The Bumblebee Queen by April Pulley Sayre
Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup

Extension Idea: 
Have your children get involved with The Great Sunflower Project! They can help plant sunflowers and watch for pollinators.

Here is this organization’s statement:
“People all over the country are collecting data on pollinators in their yards, gardens, schools and parks. Together, we take counts of the number and types of pollinators visiting plants (especially sunflowers). We have been gathering information on pollinator service since 2008, and now have the largest single body of information about bee pollinator service in North America”. (http://www.greatsunflower.org/node/1000010)

For additional Information about bees check out these websites:
Image result for american beekeeping federation
Image result for national geographic kids logo
Here is a 2-minute video from National Geographic Kids showing children learning about the importance of bees.

How To Be An Elephant by Katherine Roy

Publisher: David Macaulay Studio (September 19, 2017)
ISBN: 978-1626721784
Age Range: 7 – 11 years
Grade Level: 2 – 6
Starred Reviews: School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly
My Goodreads Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Summary and Thoughts:
This is a 48-page informative book about the African elephant is perfect for elementary aged children who would like to learn more about these beautiful creatures. Readers will follow the journey of the African Elephant from birth to adulthood. Roy introduces her audience to information about their anatomy and physiology, how they communicate, their habitat, and their diet. I appreciate how she alternates pages of long text with pages of short text, which may benefit the attention spans of younger readers. According to the note from the author, she went on location to Kenya to speak with field experts and on a 10-day safari to obtain first hand information for her book. Roy offers additional information and resources about elephants in the back of the book.

Elephants are my favorite animal, so when I saw this beautiful new book about them I had to check it out! I found Roy’s illustrations particularly amazing. I love how she uses bold lines, emulating the elephant’s wrinkly skin, in her illustrations.  You can really visualize the movement of the animals depicted in her impressionistic style. She chose a subtle earth-toned color palette to compliment her bold designs, which I also really found visually pleasing. I highly recommend this book!

Nonfiction Read-alikes and Recommendations:
Elephants Can Paint, Too! by Katya Arnold
Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants by Sandra Markle
Natumi Takes the Lead: the True Story of an Orphan Elephant Who Finds Family by Gerry Ellis with Amy Novesky
Discover the Continents: Africa by Emily Rose Oachs
National Geographic Kids: Safari by Gail Tuchman

Art Project Ideas: 
Love this idea of using a watercolor wash background with black silhouettes of elephants!  This image and idea is borrowed from: http://drawthelineat.blogspot.com/

Here is another great painting idea using oil pastels.  Borrowed from: http://aschukei.blogspot.com/2014/05/5th-grade-african-animals.html

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Additional Resources about the African Elephant and the African Savannah:  

Here is a fun game for your kids to play with Wild Kratts on PBSKids where they will be able to learn more about the African Savannah:  http://pbskids.org/wildkratts/habitats/african-savannah/

Here is more information about African Elephants on the National Geographic Kids Website and this video from their YouTube Channel.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

real friends

Publisher: First Second (May 2, 2017)
ISBN: 978-1626727854
Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Grade Level: 3 – 7+
Lexile Measure: 290
Starred Reviews: School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly
My Goodreads Rating: 5 out of 5 stars!

Summary and Thoughts: 
This graphic novel is a memoir from Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale’s elementary school years. This book highlights Hale’s struggles as she tries to navigate the social world of cliques. Best friends since they were little, Shannon and Adrienne were inseparable. In Shannon’s eyes they are opposites though, because Adrienne is more of a popular perfect girl and Shannon is geeky (see illustration below).  Their friendship soon is to be tested when Adrienne starts hanging around one of the most popular girls in school and becomes part of “The Group”. Shannon wants to also be a part of this clique but does not really fit in because the girls in this group will do anything, including bullying, to be a part of it. The book continues as Hale takes the reader through her journey of finding real friends and becoming true to herself.

I really enjoyed Hale’s memoir and gave it 5 stars on Goodreads. It breaks my heart to see girls act like this to each other and could identify with the struggles that Hale faced in this book.  My youngest daughter faced a similar situation in 3rd grade. She was also being bullied by a group of girls and it continued up until the principal got involved. After which, they all were super sweet and wanted to be best friends with my daughter but who wants friends like that?!? It is unfortunate that this kind of behavior happens and hopefully those who it is happening to can take solace in Hale’s memoir that they are not alone.

Back on a lighter note! I can’t imagine any better artwork to grace Hales’ story that that of LeUyen Pham. Just check out the awkward and funny snapshots of Shannon’s juxtaposed against her seemingly perfect friend, Adrienne’s! I especially adore her vibrant color palette.This is a great book for both elementary and middle-graders, especially for those who do not feel like they fit in. Fans of Telgemeier should also enjoy Real Friends. This book would make a great read for a tween book club or even create a “Kindness Club” for tweens. A fun project to do could be to paint rocks for “The Kindness Rocks Project”.  http://thekindnessrocksproject.com/home

Graphic Novel Autobiography Read-alikes:

  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier
  • Sisters by Raina Telgemeier (semi-autobiographical)
  • El Deafo by Cece Bell
  • To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel

Fictional Graphic Novel Read-alikes:

  • Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson
  • Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
  • Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
  • All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson
  • Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
  • Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm

Check out this great resource from Macmillan Publishers, “Real Friends Event Kit and Activities”.   I can see utilizing this in a school setting or maybe for a library tween book club!

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 10.30.42 AMhttps://images.macmillan.com/folio-assets/activity-guides/9781626727854AG.pdf

Check out the book trailer from Macmillan Publishers:

The Blobfish Book by Jessica Olien


Publisher: Balzer + Bray (May 17, 2016)
ISBN: 978-0062394156
Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 3rd
Lexile Measure: 560
Starred Review: School Library Journal
My Goodreads Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Summary and Thoughts:  If you are looking for an engaging informational read, then look no further! Jessica Olien injects humor into this book about the creatures that live in the deepest parts of the sea.  The author uses a combination of photography and cartoonish artwork in this informative metafiction book.

Blobfish, who very much wants to be the main character of this book, enthusiastically interjects himself into all pages.  He eagerly awaits his turn to hear about his species, only to find out that Blobfish are considered one of the ugliest creatures ever! The dispirited Blobfish gets a little help from his deep sea friends to remind him that looks are not everything and how special he is.

I read this book, along with fictional works, for a family storytime and the kids loved it!  I had several children request it.  I am really happy when I have the opportunity to incorporate some nonfiction works into my storytime.


Nonfiction Read-alikes (similar subject matter)

  • Pink is for Blobfish: Discovering the World’s Perfectly Pink Animals by Jess Keating
  • National Geographic Kids: Weird Sea Creatures by Laura Marsh
  • If Sharks Disappeared by Lily Williams
  • Sea Turtles by Kari Schuetz
  • Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea by Steve Jenkins

Fiction Read-alikes (funny metafiction)

  • Battle Bunny by Jon Scieszka
  • Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham
  • There Are No Cats in This Book by Viviane Schwartz
  • Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to be in This Book) by Julie Falatko
  • Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett

Want more information about deep sea creatures for kids?  Check out this National Geographic video:

Family Roadtrip? How about an audiobook!

My children are on spring break this week.  We are embarking on about a 14-hour car ride to Florida.  What could be torturous at times can become more fun while listening to an engaging audiobook to help take our minds off from being stuck in the car for so long.

Here is a list of a few of my family’s favorite audiobooks that we have listened to while traveling. Please keep in mind that our children are a bit older and some of these might be along the lines of PG-13 ratings.

1.)  All the books from the  Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and narrated by Jim Dale.  Jim Dale does an amazing job narrating all of these books.  He is a very talented voice actor who does a superb job in providing unique voices for all the characters in this amazing series about an orphaned boy who, at age 11, discovers that he is a  wizard and will start his wizarding training at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.


2.)  Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie narrated by Jim Dale.  Another Jim Dale narration that you should check out.  He brings this classic story to life with his animated tale telling about three children that meet a flying boy who never grows up who takes them on an adventure to Neverland where they have the adventure of thier lives while meeting fairies, natives, and pirates.peter pan audiobook

3.)  The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials, Book 1 by Philip Pullman.  The author is joined with a full cast in narrating this thought-provoking and adventurous book about a little girl, Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon whose world gets turned upside down when they leave the comforts of her school and get caught up in a whirlwind of events that include, child-thieving “Gobblers”,  talking armoured bears, and the mystery of “dust”.


4.) The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau and narrated by Wendy Dillon.  This is the first book of a trilogy.  In the City of Ember, the protagonist, Lina, is growing up in a post-apocalyptic society that was constructed underground.  The resources for this city are dwindling after the 200 years of being underground.  Lina sets out to solve a mystery about the city and save her fellow citizens from desolation.

city of ember

5.) Holes by Louis Sachar and narrated by Kerry Beyer. We like our adventure stories!  This one is about a teen boy named Stanley Yelnats, who feels riddled with a curse of familial bad luck, was falsely accused of theft.  He is sent to a juvenile detention camp where he must dig holes in order to build character.  Humorous characters and camp secrets make this a fast moving tale to help keep your mind occupied while stuck in the car.


6.) To Kill a Mockingbird By Harper Lee and narrated by Sissy Spacek.  My husband and I were not sure if the kids were actually listening to this one but they were and all really liked it!  The well-known actress, Sissy Spacek, does a beautiful narration of this classic Pulitzer Prize winning story.



For this road trip, I brought along two audiobooks to listen to, The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and narrated by Eric Michael Summerer and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and narrated by Allan Corduner.  I will keep you posted to whether or not we liked either of these two.  I am sure that we will though because they both have received positive reviews.