Step Gently Out


“…I adore this book. It took my breath away
when I read it, and it keeps pulling me
back again and again.”

Step Gently Out cover

    Step Gently Out honors:

  • ALA 2013 Notable Book
  • Starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, and Publisher’s Weekly.

  • Best Children’s Books of 2012: Kirkus Reviews
  • Finalist: 2015 Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award
  • Finalist: 2014-15 Star Of The North Award
  • Finalist: 2013 Chickadee Award
  • International Reading Association: Tops of 2012

Watch the book trailer:

Candlewick Press | Hardcover | 32 pages               ISBN-13: 9780763656010

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Stunning close-up photography and a lyrical text invite us to look more closely at the world and prepare to be amazed.

What would happen if you walked very, very quietly and looked ever so carefully at the natural world outside? You might see a cricket leap, a moth spread her wings, or a spider step across a silken web.

In simple, evocative language, Helen Frost offers a hint at the many tiny creatures around us.

And in astonishing photographs, Rick Lieder captures the glint of a katydid’s eye, the glow of a firefly, and many more living wonders just awaiting discovery. Fascinating facts about all the creatures are included.

About the artist

Rick Lieder is a painter, photographer and illustrator in Michigan.

About the author

Helen Frost is the author of many novels-in-poems for children and young adults. She lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Step Gently Out is the first collaboration between Rick Lieder and Helen Frost. Their 5th picture book will be published Spring 2019.
Step Gently Out title page

Step Gently Out News & Reviews


Star Of The North Award

Nice news! Step Gently Out has been nominated for the 2014-2015 Star Of The North Picture Book Award.

The Star of the North Picture Book Award was established in 2013 under the auspices of the Minnesota Youth Reading Awards. The purpose of the award is to promote quality, engaging picture books and reading for pleasure among school-aged children.

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2013 Notable Children’s Book

American Library Association chooses Step Gently Out a 2013 Notable Children’s Book for all ages.

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Kids’ Brain Blog – Plano Public Library

“Open up the book Step Gently Out and enter quietly into a big world of tiny insects.
What has the potential to be a very scary topic—BUGS!—is nothing less than enchanting in the hands of Frost and Lieder.”

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Betsy Bird – School Library Journal

“Yes, Step Gently Out appears to be a double threat. Poetry meets photography in a single undulating poem. And if my soapbox seems strange, it will make all the more sense when you learn that the pair behind the book includes the remarkable poet Helen Frost and photographer extraordinaire Rick Lieder. Put them both together and you’d be a fool to overlook this book for any reason whatsoever.”

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Cory Doctorow on Boing Boing

Poem illustrated with gorgeous macro-photo portraits:

“Step Gently Out is children’s picture book in which poet Helen Frost’s verse accompanies the incredible garden insect photographs of artist/photographer Rick Lieder. I’ve written here many times about Rick’s Bugdreams photos, and they never fail to impress and move me. Lieder’s photographic portraits of bugs are all the sweeter for his method, which is to patiently crouch in his Michigan back-yard for hours and hours, waiting for the shot; it’s a wonderful alternative to the traditional dead-bug-on-a-pin photos I grew up with.”

“Frost’s poem is a sweet accompaniment to Lieder’s pictures, a very light narration for photos that really speak for themselves. We got this book this week, and it’s a real favorite with me and my four-year-old, and has sparked many conversations and bug-watching expeditions on the way home from day-care. To this end, there’s a nice entomological appendix with interesting facts about all the bugs featured in the book.”

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Kirkus Starred Review! *

Our first review is in, and it couldn’t be better!

“Breathtaking photos and an exquisite poem capture a bug’s-eye view of nature.

One can only hope the present collaboration will be the first of many between nature photographer Lieder and Frost (Hidden, 2011, etc.), one of the most gifted, versatile children’s poets writing today, for the synthesis of word and image in this short picture book is so finely wed that the final page turn leaves one begging for more.

While Frost’s lightly rhymed declarative verse encourages children to experience the natural world with care and openness to the tiny wonders of insect life around them, Lieder’s richly colored intimate close ups offer every reason why.

Golden-hued endpapers catch a honeybee and firefly mid-flight; the volume also spotlights the less-frequently spied praying mantis, katydid and damselfly, alongside more common insects.

A dazzlingly poetic photo album of the insect world for tots on up.”

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Kirkus Interview

“With Step Gently Out, the stunning first-time collaboration between poet Helen Frost and nature photographer Rick Lieder, proponents of the odd separation of author from illustrator in children’s publishing are hereby put on notice.”

“The marriage between word and image in this gorgeous picture book melds one poem encouraging young readers to explore insect wonders of the natural world with breathtakingly intimate photographs captured only with the aid of natural light. Its success is both organic and the result of Frost and Lieder’s creative union from their project’s inception. We had the privilege of speaking with these gifted artists together as they discussed the genesis of their lyric venture.”

Read the interview

Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review! *

Another great review, a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly!

Captivating photography gives readers a closeup view of the world of insects, as described by a gently contemplative poem. Lieder captures the small miracles of a bumblebee in mid-flight, a spider dangling from a dewy branch, and a firefly’s flash, while Frost urges readers to be mindful of events that seem insignificant.”

Working in concert, the words and images achieve a Zenlike calm that also hints at the complicated web of life unfolding all around.

Publisher’s Weekly

Booklist Starred Review! *

A 3rd starred review, from Booklist!

Here’s an excerpt:

“Nature’s miracles are often small and hard to capture, but in a syncopated harmony of text and image, Frost and Lieder manage to depict tiny moments as seen through a bugs-eye-view of the world.”

“Praying mantises and moths may not be known for their loveliness, but in the collaborators’ capable hands, they are beautiful.”

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The Kiddosphere

“WOOO HOOO. … this is Caldecott eligible. The photography is breathtaking. Oh, my goodness. The entire graphic design is exemplary, as can be expected by a Candlewick publication. Helen Frost’s paean to the smaller aspects of nature is divine.”

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Post-Tribune – Chicago Sun-Times

“… a beautiful look at the teeny, tiny creatures that live in our world. Using stunning photographs, we see details of various bugs and bees, spiders and moths, crickets and praying mantises, with an especially lovely look at a spider web covered with sparkling dew.”

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Imagination Soup

“The tiny insects become magnified in Lieder’s gorgeous close-up photography – an ant dangling off a small green stem, the geometric, transluscent wings of a dragonfly, and a bee suspended mid-flight. The poetic verse whispers love for the simpleness of nature. A beautiful book you’ll want to own.”

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Teresa’s Reading Corner

“In honor of National Poetry Month the monkey and I have been reading a bit of poetry. As soon as I picked this one up I knew it was going to be a winner. The monkey likes anything to do with nature and bugs and I am a sucker for beautiful photography.”

“Step Gently Out was perfect for both of us. Geared toward the younger reader the lyrical message was easy for the monkey to understand, yet is just as powerful for adults. Take time to slow down and consider and appreciate everything around you. I found the photography to be breathtaking. It made me long to be able to take photos like that.”

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Book Aunt

“The book is illustrated by stunning close-up photographs of each creature. Because the focus is on each small actor, backdrops blur away, though they are vaguely recognizable as green leaves, foggy mornings, and twilights. The whole effect is one of a subdued world with glorious scraps of life beating brightly at its heart.”

“There is rhyme in this book occasionally. The words are certainly strong, but I have to say, the photos tend to trump the text. Though ultimately, the two work together, telling us of a world we don’t always notice or think about, reminding us of its power and singular beauty.”

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“My favorite moment of the whole month of Poetry Madness happened on Friday when the last group of 2nd graders was examining the chart. Many were cheering about Loose Leashes. Others were looking back at the books that didn’t make it, talking about the ones they wished had gone farther in the bracket.
One second grade boy said, “I don’t know why, but I really wanted STEP GENTLY OUT to win.” I said,”Oh, I loved that one too. Why did you like it?” He said, “I don’t know. I guess when I read it, I felt peace.” Everyone nodded and agreed. What an insightful comment. It was then that I realized that the small conversations around Poetry Madness had made a difference to lots of kids. “

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Imagination Soup

“The tiny insects become magnified in Lieder’s gorgeous close-up photography – an ant dangling off a small green stem, the geometric, transluscent wings of a dragonfly, and a bee suspended mid-flight. The poetic verse whispers love for the simpleness of nature. A beautiful book you’ll want to own.”

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Teach Mentor Texts

“This book does not disappoint. While I am pro-animals, I sometimes have a hard time identifying with insects…and this book made me really appreciate and love these tiny, voracious creatures. I love how the photographs in the book really bring the reader up close and personal with these insects. Even more, I love how the text magically causes the reader to slow down and marinate in the words while taking in the photos of these insects.

Poems that rhyme speak directly to my heart and this poetry is fantastic in it’s rhythm and rhyme. It’s beautiful in every sense. I love books like Step Gently Out that make me feel calm and light after I am done reading them. It’s remarkable.”

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Tops of 2012 in Picture Books

“STEP GENTLY OUT not only fosters a love of poetry but also of the creatures it describes. It shows passage of time and the behavior of some of our most populous occupants of the planet. It can be used to celebrate National Poetry Month or on any day of the year. It is one of those rare picture books where the text, art, and design merge seamlessly together to create a spectacular book.” – International Reading Association: Anita’s Picks.

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The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast showcased my book trailer:
A Poem For Sunday

Elaine on Amazon

“Amazing! This is one of the most amazing children’s books I have read. The photography is absolutely spectacular, the poetry is beautiful…”
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Bill Martin Jr. Picture Book Award

Wonderful! Step Gently Out nominated for the 2015 Bill Martin Jr. Children’s Picture Book Award.

This award has been in existence since 1996 and honors renowned Kansas Author Bill Martin, Jr. It also commends outstanding authors and illustrators, promotes an appreciation in literature for young children, and encourages involvement in promoting quality picture books.

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Caldecott 2013

Great review in the latest Horn Book, a discussion of the 2013 Caldecott award:

Horn Book review

100 Scope Notes

“A while back, A Fuse #8 Production wrote an excellent post about the fact that there has never been a Caldecott Award or honor book comprised solely of photographs. I offer Step Gently Out for your consideration. The work of Michigan native Rick Lieder shines, beautifully interpreting the text and creating some thrilling moments along the way.

An excellent pairing of poetry and illustration, Step Gently Out is a 2012 standout, pure and simple.”

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Great Kid Books

“A beautiful new picture book, Step Gently Out, celebrates this moment for children – the wonder of watching animals, looking closely at their world and ours. Lieder’s photography will be the first thing to grab children’s attention. Each page brings the reader up close to an insect, as if you were right there crouching in the garden.

Yes, I know I’m gushing, but I adore this book. It took my breath away when I read it, and it keeps pulling me back again and again. I second Travis Jonker’s suggestion – this is certainly a book that could either be considered for the Caldecott for its stunning photographs or the Newbery for its beautiful text.”

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Richie’s Picks

An excerpt from his wonderful review:

“This is a book in stunning image and spare verse about our natural world, a book that reminds me about the magic of that world, and of our role as stewards of our fragile home.”

Richie’s Picks

Collecting Children’s Books

“STEP GENTLY OUT has the feel of a classic and, one hopes, will lead to further collaborations between this poet and photographer.”

Peter D. Sieruta

Fort Wayne Museum of Art

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art showcased Step Gently Out with a multimedia presentation, book signing and opening reception for an exhibition of the images from the book in the Edward D. Auer Memorial Art Library.

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Orion Magazine Blog

“To whom does a yard belong? The answer, if there is one, can’t be arrived at without a keen eye and a bit of patience. Photographer Rick Lieder brings both to bear in Step Gently Out, a picture book for all ages that documents the incredible diversity of small life within a single midwestern backyard. We asked Lieder to describe the process of capturing the book’s images, which seem nearly to quiver with urgency and light.”

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Book-A-Day Almanac

“In the last couple of years, single poetry volumes for children ages two through eight have increased. Wordsmith Helen Frost has just added her own offering for this age group with a new picture book, Step Gently Out, with art by Rick Lieder. A bumblebee flies across rainbow-colored endpapers, welcoming readers into the subject matter of the book: insects engaged in their daily activities.”

“Rick Lieder creates brilliant photographic compositions that match the text and make insect identification easy for even the youngest viewers. The images are breathtaking. When introduced to children, the book elicits cries of “this is so beautiful.” And it is – both in text and art.”

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The 4:00 Book Hook

“In her trademark lyrical language, Frost shares an inspired poem about taking the time to look more closely at nature. Rick Lieder’s gorgeous photos, including close-ups of a praying mantis, a moth, and a honey bee, richly complement the text.”

“Even though, at around 100 words, the text is spare, the beauty and tranquility that the book exudes will leave you wanting to read it again and again. “

Waking Brain Cells

“This picture book celebrates looking closely at the small things in the world around us. Through a poem that focuses on the insects that you can notice if you slow down and take the time, Frost quietly reminds us all that there is another world beside our own that we often ignore. Ants are climbing up stems, honeybees buzz past, crickets leap and spiders spin webs. Children will get to see these insects up close, larger than life in the gorgeous photography that accompanies the poem. It’s a perfect invitation to take a closer look.”

“Her gentle poem pairs beautifully with the artistic photography that features close ups of the insects in the poem. The images are stunning and lovely, each focusing closely on an insect. The morning dew image alone is a breathtaking photograph, but there is one after another that are exceptional.”

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Youth Services Book Review

“The photographs of insects are sensational as a lovely poem in very large typeface leads us through the book. It is beautiful both visually and aurally.”

Katrina Yurenka

“The photographs are incredible, almost eliciting gasps of awe at the minuscule beauty of an orb-weaver spider or a common yellow jacket whose colors make her decidedly uncommon.”


Cracking the Cover

“Each line in “Step Gently Out” asks readers to explore. The text simply explains each of the book’s stunning photographs — which just so happens to be bugs in their habitats.”

“Like the text, each of the images is simple in composition, yet complex in the details. The fuzz on a caterpillar becomes long and spiky, and a moth’s wings take on a hair-like quality when seen through a macro lens. Rick Lieder’s images combined with Helen Frost’s text give these tiny creatures the appearance of human personalities.”

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Bookshelf: What We’re Reading

“Rick Lieder’s amazing photos bring this world alive. From bees to praying mantis and ants to fireflies, Lieder’s photos capture the grace and beauty of these tiny animals.
As much as I enjoyed the text, I found myself having to go back and reread it because I was so mesmerized by the detailed images in the photos, ranging from a dew covered web to a firefly lighting up at night.”

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What is Bridget Reading?

“Frost’s lyrical poem celebrates nature–what you’ll see if you just “step gently out.” Lieder’s photographs complement it perfectly.”

“Oh, how I wish I had had this book for my Bugs Family Story Time in March. It’s lovely. Step Gently Out is an unexpected gem!”

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Rosemary’s Reading Circle

“Step Gently Out was recommended to me by one of the librarians. She said she loves to read it at story time because the children are fascinated by the photographs of insects and the natural world. They like to trace the photos and touch the insects …. it is so realistic and exquisite.”

“I am not a bug or insect person. As a matter of fact I tend to run away from them. That being said even I was drawn to these photographs. Rick Lieder is truly one of the best nature photographers I have ever seen. I love Helen Frost’s lyrical poems too… so simple but expressive. This is the perfect book for ages 2 and up. (I say “and up” because I think any age can appreciate this book).”

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Cleveland Plain Dealer

“Stunning photography and evocative language encourage children — and their grown-ups — to pause for just a moment to notice the natural world. Moving from the glimmering lights of dawn to the soft shadows of dusk, the close-ups provide a bug’s-eye view, giving kids a unique and intimate perspective of their surroundings.”

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The Horn Book

“The poem tells a story of slowing down, looking carefully, and appreciating the natural world. The oversized insects allow the reader to imagine what it would be like to be one. The flyleaf tells the reader that Rick Lieder is a photographer, painter and illustrator. And many of us know, from her previous books, that Helen Frost is one heckuva poet. I hope the Caldecott Committee will step gently out of the box and consider this one.” – Calling Caldecott – Robin Smith.

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