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.




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

  1. This is not normally a book that I would have picked up, but your glowing review added it to my TBR list. Thank you for your wonderful read-alikes and excellent additional resources.


  2. This is SUCH a cool topic and something about which I knew nothing! You chose some great additional reading options. I especially liked that you seized on the idea that a reader might not have gravitated to the book because of the WW I angle, but rather because of the optical effects. Intriguing choices and awesome links as well! Great job!


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