Dazzle Ships

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 15 Aug 2017

Member Reviews

A rich and beautiful book about a little-known bit of war history. Absolutely sumptuous!
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During World War One, the island nation of Great Britain was faced with a dreadful problem: feeding her people. German U Boats were sinking their ships, making it nearly impossible to import food. Britain was desperate for a solution (even considering training sea lions to spot the U Boats) that would prevent their people from starving and allow them to stay in the war. Enter Lieutenant-Commander Norman Wilkinson and his idea of camouflage. 
Wilkinson suggested painting ships in such a way that enemy submarines couldn’t figure out the direction they were headed, thus preventing them from setting an accurate course for a torpedo. Deciding to give Wilkinson’s plan a try, the British government christened it ‘Dazzle’ and  set about painting their ships in multi-colored and outrageous patterns. Even King George V was stumped by the Dazzle Ships, and he was a professional sailor!
I always assumed that battleships were always grey, so reading Dazzle Ships was a bit of a surprise to me. As always, Chris Barton (a repeat on the Texas Bluebonnet Award list) did an excellent job of shedding some light on a little known historical figure. The text is easy for young readers to understand, quite the accomplishment when dealing with something as complex as the First World War. Victo Ngai’s illustrations are superb. I like the personification of national symbols used to show the conflict; it makes it a bit more ‘child friendly’ than a battle field scene would. I enjoyed looking for Ngai’s symbol on each page as well!
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A wonderful book about long forgotten camouflaged British and American Ships in World War I.  The writing is clear but informative.  The Illustrations are beautiful.  I loved that the author also included the contributions of women.  The book will appeal to children and adults wishing to know more.  Enjoy
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Its an interesting little tidbit of history. Really, though, that's all this is. A bit of trivia. There's not a lot of information here so really only suitable for a young audience. An appendix with something about the science behind the visual effect would have been nice.
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I love it  when I pick up a book that has been revered to me and I learn something new. That was the case with Dazzle Ships. I loved reading the history of these ships and the importance of their design. I enjoyed the nod to the women and artists involved in these important military decisions. This will be an excellent non-fiction addition to the library and I can already think of children who will love this book.
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Have you ever heard a fascinating fact about history and wondered why you didn't learn it in school? That's exactly what happened to me when I first read Dazzle Ships by Chris Barton.

As we learned during high school history classes, British and American ships were under attack by German U-boats during World War I. I didn't learn, however, that the ships were painted in "crazy" colors and patterns to create confusion for German submarine officers looking through periscopes. The boats were camouflaged so that submarine officers might miscalculate where a torpedo should hit.

Particular attention is given to the women who painted many of the ships, which may go against assumptions when we think about key players in World War I. Barton explains in his author's note that he didn't want his readers to assume the staff was all male.

Barton's words give a quick overview of World War I, but delve into detail when it comes to the dazzle ships and their history. The explanation of why and how the ships were painted is easy to understand, and Ngai's incredible illustrations are dazzling in and of themselves.
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Dazzle Ships was a great book that upper elementary students will love. Not only are the pictures amazing, it beautifully tells the story of a forgotten part of history. I cannot wait to be able to share this book in my classroom!
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I loved this! I have never heard of Dazzle Ships (WW1 camoflauge to protect boats from German torpedo attacks), so this book was really interesting. The illustrations were absolutely perfect. I felt like I was looking through an art book at times. This would be great for upper elementary teachers who wanted to reinforce WW1 terminology while focusing on some really cool lesser known historical info.
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I received this arc from Netgalley for an honest review. 
This is one of the coolest books that I have read all year. Dazzle ships were eye-catching designs for British and American ships in World War 1 in hopes of making it difficult for enemies to determine the location and speed of each ship. This book shows lots of those ships with history to go along with it. A Truly amazing book, I can't wait to see it in print form.
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This book does a great job of telling about a little known part of WWI. This would be a nice pairing with Enigma Alberti's Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army. Both of these titles show ways in which the military fights the enemy in creative and artistic ways.
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When German U-boat attacks on cargo ships during WWI started causing residents of England to worry about shortages of materials, the UK started looking for ways to cut down on the number of ships sunk by torpedoes. Norman Wilkinson came to the government with the idea to camouflage the ships with designs that would confuse U-boat captains as to which direction the ship was headed. The government liked the idea and Wilkinson and a workforce of female artists started creating designs and painting ships. The idea was also adopted by the US and soon thousands of dazzle ships were sailing the seas using their crazy paint jobs to fool submarines.

I had never heard about dazzle ships before reading this book. It was a fascinating look at a creative attempt to solve a problem, highlights an often overlooked aspect of WWI, provides a historic look at the role of camouflage in war, looks at uses of optical illusions, and how artwork can have practical applications beyond aesthetics including psychological benefits. The retro art style of the illustrations fit the time period and topic perfectly. I can definitely see art classes using this and of course history classes. It would also be a good nonfiction pick for kids who are fascinated by optical illusions. And language arts teachers, you really need to read the author’s note on the research process in the back. It is a fantastic look at the research process of an author. Share it with students before they jump into doing research.
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What a fascinating account of how American and British ships were painted / camouflaged to dazzle and confuse the German submarines trying to sink them. I had never before heard of this idea, the brainchild of Norman Wilkinson. A really interesting and intriguing account; and most importantly (for me as a Primary School librarian) very accessible to younger readers. I often get requests for books about the World Wars from my Primary School students, finding most of the available materials little suitable for this age group. This book will work well and surely attract much interest, I have no doubt. The vibrant illustrations add to the book's overall appeal. Further, I appreciated the note at the beginning of the book which provides context for younger readers; as well as the elaborate notes by the author and the illustrator and annotated timeline at the end of the book.
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An intriguing and fascinating look into why US and British warships were painted with dazzling designs and colors.  

A fascinating and intriguing look into why US and British warships were painting with dazzling designs and colors.  As a history buff I found the explanations easy to understand.  In 1917 Germany attempted to starve Britain by sinking ships carrying foodstuffs.  That's when camouflage for ships began.  It was a real-life example of information overload.
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In this highly accessible nonfiction picture book, children will learn how, during World War I, the British and Americans painted their warships in dazzling colors and designs to confuse enemy submarines about where the ships were heading. It's a good story to think about, and it is dazzlingly illustrated. The back matter is notable, too. In his author's note, the author shares how he gets an idea for a book, then researches it, writes about it, and then revises. In his illustrator's note, the illustrator shares his thoughts about illustrating. There are also photographs and a timeline. All useful pieces that add up to a satisfying work.
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Great book. This is commonly overlooked part of war and a bit of a challenge for students to understand but this book will help students immensley
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I loved this new take on a war that is not often mentioned in children's books. I was expecting this to be a collection of illustrations depicting the "mesmerizing patterns" promised in the overview, but was pleasantly surprised to find a lovely example of narrative nonfiction. The illustrations do not disappoint and the narration is detailed without becoming overwhelming for upper-elementary students. I will be recommending this to my history buffs and artists alike!
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Author: Chris Barton
Interest Level 3-6 grades
Genre: Nonfiction 

Did you know that our World War I ships were painted with elaborate colors and designs? Why would the military commission artists to design these distinctive patterns? It was a bold plan to confuse the enemy through optical illusion. In 1917 Germans torpedoed British ships that were delivering goods and supplies to the people. The Germans were trying to starve their adversary. Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Lieutenant-Commander, Norman Wilkinson, came up with an idea to paint the ships in such a way that their direction could not easily be determined.  When his prototype tricked King George V, Wilkinson was convinced his idea would work. 

“Dazzle Ships” is vividly illustrated and the language is accessible for young readers. Readers will be amazed by the ingenuity and the willingness of the military to try something untested to help save the people from further suffering. The book includes resources for further research, author’s note, illustrator’s note, and timeline. Highly recommended.
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Gorgeous illustrations and simple text makes this book accessible to even the youngest of readers. It's great to see the increase in nonfiction picture books.
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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 likely to be sunk because U-boat commanders would be confused about ship speed and direction. This story is told for children in the admirable and very enjoyable ‘Dazzle Ships. World War 1 and the Art of Confusion’. 

Dazzle was employed by the United States, once it entered the Great War, as well as the United Kingdom, so this book deserves an audience on both sides of the Atlantic and amongst girls as well as boys as the author, Chris Barton, takes care to explain that in the States members of the Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps painted ships, whilst female former art school students played a key role in painting original designs on wooden models in the British dazzle studios.

As befits its subject matter ‘Dazzle Ships’ is a picture book and the illustrations by Victo Ngai are very engaging. There are also four photographs  - one of Wilkinson, one of HMS Kildangan in all its dazzle finery and two portraying the aforementioned contributions of American and British women.

The text is generally very good although the main text suggests only one period of unrestricted submarine warfare whereas the timeline correctly records that there were actually two (the first being suspended following the protests arising from the sinking of the Lusitania). The timeline also suggests that the British blockade of Germany began in March 1915 when it was rather tightened at that date.

It is also surprising that the only reference to the use of dazzle after 1918 occurs obliquely, when another book is mentioned. Not only was dazzle employed again in World War Two but there is still a dazzle ship operating today in the form of Sir Peter Blake’s Dazzle Ferry. As it operates on the Mersey one can only assume that it’s designed to ward off yellow submarines.
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