It stands to reason. I mean, when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Author Chris Barton has specialized in the un-specializable. From the moment his career began he has maintained an unerring love for stories that haven’t just been untold in the realm of children’s nonfiction books, but adult nonfiction as well. Remember when he shone a light on the Day-Glo Brothers? How about The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch? A behind-the-scenes look at The Nutcracker Comes to America? Or perhaps that magnificent picture book biography Whoosh?
So … his latest project? Here’s the one sentence description Baker & Taylor is offering at the moment:
“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.”
Wait . . . wha? Dazzle ships? Any relation to the superhero Dazzler? Nope (though if you got my disco reference, well played). No, apparently during World War I it was believed that if you painted a ship in a dazzle pattern it could make it difficult for an enemy to estimate the correct range, speed, and heading.
In other words, the perfect subject for a work of nonfiction by Chris Barton. I mean, check out these Library of Congress photographs from the time period:
Working with Millbrook Press (an imprint of Lerner) Chris was paired with artist Victo Ngai, a Hong Kong born RISD grad who, amongst her many accolades, snagged a Society of Illustrators Gold Medal in her travels. I just went to her website and read the short comic I was born in 1930, 3500’N 10500’E which was inspired by her grandparents’ life in China and I find I have suddenly become her greatest fan. I don’t know what genius thought to pair her with this book, but clearly that person was heaven sent.
Carol Hinz at Millbrook shared with me some preliminary sketches for Chris and Victo’s book. These were early cover design ideas before they hit on the right look and feel:
Extra Bonus: here’s an Instagram photo from the book’s graphic designer, who was on press with the jacket:
Put it all together and what do you have? One beautiful book with a text I’d certainly like to read.
Ladies and gentlemen: Dazzle Ships!
Many thanks to Carol of Millbrook for sharing these images (and tracking them all down for me) as well as Chris and Victo for letting me share them. This book hits shelves September 1st. Better order your copy today.