cover image Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion

Chris Barton, illus. by Victo Ngai. Millbrook, $19.99 (36p) ISBN 978-1-5124-1014-3

Dazzling in their own right, newcomer Ngai’s illustrations strikingly depict the dazzle ships of WWI, more than 4,000 British and U.S. merchant and warships that were painted with wild colors and patterns. These “dazzle” designs, explains Barton (88 Instruments), “were supposed to confuse German submarine crews about the ships’ direction and speed” and keep them safer from torpedo fire. Ngai runs with the camouflage theme in energetic scenes that are crisscrossed with geometric and organic patterns and lines: in one spread, the uniform jacket of British naval officer Norman Wilkinson, who proposed the dazzle painting idea, is masked by the curvilinear patterns and hues of the ocean waves in the background. “Sometimes desperate times call for dazzling measures,” writes Barton in conclusion, underscoring the importance of creative problem solving. Reflective author and artist notes, a timeline with b&w photographs, and a reading list wrap up a conversational, compelling, and visually arresting story that coincides with the 100th anniversary of its subject. Ages 7–11. [em]Author’s agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. Illustrator’s agent: Gail Gaynin, Morgan Gaynin. (Sept.) [/em]