Books We Love: Dazzle Ships

Books We Love

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.

Classroom Connections

The remarkable author’s note describes the research process that went along with writing the story. Barton explains how he had to chase the story by following some leads and leaving out others. Student researchers can learn many lessons from Barton’s experiences.

This book is all-around a dazzling read. It will be a great independent reading book for children interested in naval history or World War I. It can also be used as an interest activator for World War I discussion in middle and high school.


Dazzle Ships will be released in September 2017 by Millbrook/Lerner.

Note: I received a digital Advanced Review Copy of this book from Millbrook/Lerner in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are my own. Thanks for reading!

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