Dazzle Ships

World War I and the Art of Confusion

  • Interest Level: Grade 2 - Grade 5
  • Reading Level: Grade 4

A visually stunning look at innovative and eye-popping measures used to protect ships during World War I.

During World War I, British and American ships were painted with bold colors and crazy patterns from bow to stern. Why would anyone put such eye-catching designs on ships?

Desperate to protect ships from German torpedo attacks, British lieutenant-commander Norman Wilkinson proposed what became known as dazzle. These stunning patterns and colors were meant to confuse the enemy about a ship’s speed and direction. By the end of the war, more than four thousand ships had been painted with these mesmerizing designs.

Author Chris Barton and illustrator Victo Ngai vividly bring to life this little-known story of how the unlikely and the improbable became just plain dazzling.

“[A] conversational, compelling, and visually arresting story . . .”—starred, Publishers Weekly

“Barton’s lively text is matched by Ngai’s engrossing artwork, which employs dazzle techniques throughout her inventive spreads.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

New York Public Library Best Books for Kids

Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year

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Interest Level Grade 2 - Grade 5
Reading Level Grade 4
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Category 5 Kinds of Nonfiction, 5KN: Narrative Nonfiction
Copyright 2017
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Millbrook Press ™
Language English
Number of Pages 36
Publication Date 2017-09-01
Text Type Narrative Nonfiction
BISACS JNF025210, JNF025130, JNF057020
Dewey 940.4/5941
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.25 x 11
Lexile 990
Guided Reading Level W
ATOS Reading Level 6.1
Accelerated Reader® Quiz 189562
Accelerated Reader® Points 0.5
Features Author/Illustrator note, Awards, Bibliography/further reading, Original artwork, Reviewed, Starred Reviews, and Timeline

Author: Chris Barton

Chris Barton is the author of acclaimed nonfiction picture books including Dazzle Ships, Whoosh!, and What Do You Do with a Voice Like That?. His books have won several awards including a Sibert Honor for The Day-Glo Brothers and an Orbis Pictus Recommended for All of a Sudden and Forever. Chris lives in Austin, Texas, with his family.

Illustrator: Victo Ngai

Victo Ngai is a Los Angeles-based illustrator from Hong Kong. "Victo" is neither a boy nor a typo, but a nickname derived from Victoria—a leftover from the British colonization. Ngai's work has appeared in books, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, and animations. Among her many clients are The New York Times, The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, General Electric, Lufthansa, Johnnie Walker, Apple, IMAX, MTA Art and Design, McDonald's, and Tor Forge. Ngai has received numerous honors, including Forbes 30 Under 30, The Society of News Design, The Society of Publications Designers, Communication Arts, Spectrum Fantastic, and the Society of Illustrators of New York. She's a current nominee for the Hugo, Locus, and Chesley awards.

Narrator: Johnny Heller


  • Land of Enchantment Book Award Nominee, Nominated, 2021
  • Bluestem Award Master List, Long-listed, 2020
  • Virginia Readers' Choice Award Nominee, Nominated, 2020
  • North Carolina Children's Book Award Nominee, Short-listed, 2019
  • Texas Topaz Reading List, Winner, 2019
  • Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Awards Nominee, Nominated, 2019
  • NCSS/CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People, Winner, 2018
  • Cybils Finalist, Nominated, 2018
  • Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) Choices, Winner, 2018
  • Children's Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children's Book of the Year, Winner, 2018
  • Marion Vannett Ridgway Honor Book Award, Runner-up, 2018
  • ALA Notable Children's Books, Winner, 2018
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books, Winner, 2017
  • New York Public Library Best Books for Kids, Winner, 2017
  • Orbis Pictus Award Honor, Short-listed, 2017
  • Dilys Evans Founder’s Award, Winner, 2017
  • Writers' League of Texas Book Award, Winner, 2017


The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Barton’s lively text is matched by Ngai’s engrossing artwork, which employs dazzle techniques throughout her inventive spreads.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Shelf Awareness

“Chris Barton and Victo Ngai’s Dazzle Ships gives young readers an introduction to World War I in a clever and colorful way.”—Shelf Awareness

School Library Journal

“The well-written, intriguing text is complemented by Ngai’s vibrant and surreal illustrations. . . . With the commemoration of the centenary of World War I, this book is a fascinating selection that will captivate readers, especially war story enthusiasts.”—starred, School Library Journal


“[An] inspiring story of creativity.”—Booklist

Publishers Weekly

“[A] conversational, compelling, and visually arresting story . . .”—starred, Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews

“[A] fascinating volume about a little-known side of the war. An eye-catching title sure to dazzle.”—Kirkus Reviews