Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion

25 min. Dreamscape. 2018. $38.99. ISBN 9781974901678.
OrangeReviewStarGr 2–6—During World War I, German U-boats attacked British commercial shipping and military vessels, which threatened to cause starvation in Britain. How could this new danger be thwarted? Artist Norman Wilkinson came up with a unique idea—to camouflage ships by painting them in erratic, wild, and uneven designs. The goal was to confuse and befuddle U-boat periscopes as to the speed and direction of their target by breaking up the ship's profile. Before the war was over, several thousand ships from the United States and Great Britain were painted, or "dazzled," in colorful patterns. This part of the war is thoughtfully presented, adapted from Chris Barton's 2017 picture book. Victo Ngai's illustrations are closely scanned and sometimes simply animated as Johnny Heller narrates the text set to taut, compelling music and appropriate sound effects. The disc includes a feature on the contribution of women artists who designed many of the patterns used, a time line of the war, and author and illustrator notes that expand on the role of art in our lives.
VERDICT This extraordinary, fascinating look into a little-known historical event has multiple curriculum connections, from history to art. It would be a valuable addition to any collection and inspire viewers to do further research.

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