During World War I, British and American ships were painted in ways meant to deceive German U-boat crews.
Submarine attacks were becoming a problem, and the British and Americans needed a plan to save their ships. Norman Wilkinson of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve came up with a new idea: camouflage. Obviously, they couldn’t make the ships invisible, but maybe they could paint them in a way that would confuse submarine officers and make it difficult to determine which way a ship was heading and how fast—important since torpedoes were fired not at the ship but at the spot where the ship would soon be. In 1917, ships were “dazzle-painted,” or painted in “crazy” designs meant to confuse. Ngai uses analog and digital media to great effect, from the dazzling cover (which will attract many readers all by itself) to the range of designs employed, applying an appropriate period aesthetic throughout. Readers, however, may not quite see the genius, since, in most illustrations, it’s pretty clear which direction the ships are heading, and the perspective from German periscopes is lacking. And, by war’s end, the Royal Navy couldn’t prove that dazzle had spared any ships, which may sink enthusiasm for the story. Still, it’s a fascinating volume about a little-known side of the war.
An eye-catching title sure to dazzle. (author’s note, illustrator’s note, timeline, further reading) (Informational picture book. 8-12)