Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion

Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion
Written by Chris Barton, Illustrated by Victo Ngai

Publisher’s Summary:
When the British Royal Navy grew desperate to protect their ship from German U-Boat attacks, they created Dazzle ships in order to confuse the enemy of their location and destination.

Primary Source Pairing:
Chris Barton is back again with another gem of narrative nonfiction. Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion takes a close look at the artful ways American and British armies protected their ships during World War I. The text and artwork are indeed dazzling. For this primary source pairing, use a photograph from 1918 as an anticipatory analysis activity. Before introducing the book, invite students to analyze this photograph and really focus on the Question column of the primary source analysis tool. Then read the book together and discover if the answers to the generated questions can be answered in the text.

Alternatively or additionally, read the Illustrator’s Note prior to reading the text, focusing on paragraph four. Illustrator Victo Ngai describes how he has included a symbol for his name in each piece of art in the book. Use this opportunity to closely study Ngai’s artwork and look for his name symbol.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what you see.
  • What do you notice first?
  • What people and objects are shown?
  • How are they arranged?
  • What is the physical setting?
  • What’s happening in the image?
  • Find something small but interesting.
  • What do you notice that you didn’t expect?
  • What do you notice that you can’t explain?
  • What questions do you have when you study this image?

Book Cover and Summary: Follett
MAURETANIA photograph: Library of Congress
Primary Source Analysis Tools: Library of Congress

Additional Chris Barton title with a Primary Source Pairing:
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions, Bluestem 2019