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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Cover Reveal: Dazzle Ships: World War I and the Art of Confusion by Chris Barton

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.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I can’t wait to share this book with history-loving art buff kids in my life. And there are quite a few!

  2. Wow–this looks absolutely amazing! I can’t wait to read it! Thanks for sharing, Betsy!

  3. Wowzers! I can’t wait!

  4. Hot damn. That’s a COVER.

  5. Another home run for Chris. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one.

  6. Hot damn! This looks great!

  7. As usual, Chris Barton wins ALLLLL the things. Wow. I knew about these ships, but I’m so excited to see a pb about them – how cool!

  8. Great work by Chris and Victo, and a perfect match of illustrator to subject matter. I had not been aware of Victo’s work, but lots of credit to her and the art director for applying the Dazzle aesthetic throughout the book, from bow to stern.

  9. Credit where credit is due: art director Danielle Carnito is the genius who thought Victo would be the right illustrator for this book. I feel so fortunate to work with Danielle, and watching her and Victo figure out the all details along the way was an absolute delight!

    Thank you to Betsy for the cover reveal and to all those who commented–the book was a joy to create from stem to stern!

  10. John Coy says:

    What a wonderful pairing. I can not wait to see this finished book as I remember talking with Chris about it. What a dazzling slice of history.


  1. […] and the Art of Confusion is all I’ll show you here today, but if you’ll hop on over to A Fuse #8 Production, you’ll see librarian Betsy Bird’s post providing a first, up-close look at debut […]