An notable debut: Can you dance to the Boogaloo? by Alice V. Lickens

posted in: Alice Lickens | 3

boogalooAlice V. Lickens‘ debut picture book, Can You Dance to the Boogaloo? was published last week and I rushed to get this post ready for you because I think it’s a very special début; I’d put money on Lickens becoming a big star for she has a delightful, beautiful and eyecatching style.

Essentially an illustrated poem about the joys of making music and dancing, this book is a joyous, sumptuous feast for the eyes. Cats and crocodiles, lions and tigers parade through the pages tapping out a vibrant beat, leaving readers and viewers with a massive smile on their face.


Lickens’ animals have a hand-printed look about them (although actually they are hand drawn, then digitally coloured and layered with various textures) and her use of colour and pattern work very well with many very large scale images, almost bursting off and over the edge of the pages, making this book perhaps especially good for reading to groups.

Whilst Licken’s illustrations bowled me over, the text doesn’t quite match the brilliance of the images. The cadence and rhyme don’t flow quite as easily as in, for example, Doing the Animal Bop by Jan Ormerod, which is a shame in a book about enjoying rhythm and musical patterns. But please don’t be put off by this small criticism: Can You Dance to the Boogaloo? is a very impressive and exuberant entry into the wonderful world of picture books by Lickens (a past recipient of a Sendak Fellowship) . I’m already looking forward to Lickens’ next book, ‘How To Be A Cowboy’ which should be out in Spring 2014.

Naturally enough reading Can You Dance to the Boogaloo? got us making music. Lots of LOUD music!

We made finger castanets out of old lids by adding finger sized tubes of cardboard onto the back of each of two lids.


We created bugles out of garden hosepipe and funnels, decorated with insulation tape (colourful and easy for kids to use) and crepe paper streamers.



Empty plastic containers made excellent drums, whilst washed out plastic milk bottles were filled with coloured pasta and decorated with sharpies (permanent pens – these work well on plastic) to create shakers.



Silver foil mini pie dishes stuck on to lollipop sticks made good cymbals.


With our little band ready we then danced and danced AND DANCED (!) to

  • Little Richard’s Tutti Frutti
  • The Marcels’ Blue Moon

    Who Put The Bomp by Barry Mann

    Johnny Cymbal’s Mr Bass Man

    The Chordette’s Lollipop

    If you want more inspiration for homemade musical instruments you could try these links:

  • Growing Sound – “a project that uses cross-curricular activities to teach music, physics and plant science”.
  • Inventing Homemade Instruments with Math and Measurement, and almost everything else on Phil Tulga’s Music through the Curriculum website.
  • The Instrument Lab from the New York Philharmonic.

  • What are you going to put on to dance to now?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of Can You Dance to the Boogaloo? from the publishers.

    I’ll be sharing this post over at Kerry’s Read and Romp Round Up on her blog, Picture Books and Pirouettes – a fantastic celebration of dance, movement and children’s literature.

    3 Responses

    1. Kerry Aradhya

      Hi, Zoe!! Just read your post, and then was so happy to see my roundup mentioned at the end 🙂 I was hoping you would join. Sounds like you and your family had a fun time making music and dancing. I love the honesty in your review and appreciate how much you love the book despite its flaws. Hope I have the chance to read it sometime…
      Kerry Aradhya recently posted..Join the September Read & Romp Roundup!

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