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Nonfiction Monday: Step Gently Out by Helen Frost

Step Gently Out
By Helen Frost
Photographs by Rick Lieder

Candlewick Press

ISBN: 9780763656010
Grades K-2
In Stores

*Best New Book*

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your Library

Poetry is oh-so-tricky. Go too concrete and rhyme-y, and you end up with stale platitudes. Go too abstract, and you can lose kids in a wash of linguistic flourishes. Special is the book that rides the fine line between the two, appealing to kids experiences while bringing the beauty. In both text and illustration, Step Gently Out is this sort of book.

There’s an entire world out there that’s easy to miss. Insects are all around us, but we often turn a blind eye. This poem begins with a call to take notice:

Step gently out,

be still,

and watch

a single blade

of grass.

The poem proceeds to name a cast of backyard characters, and how they share our world. It’s a study in peacefulness that never strays from the message of being aware of your surroundings, because magical things are happening.

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.

Review copy from the publisher.

Be sure to check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Ms. Yingling Reads.

Watch the book trailer for Step Gently Out:

Also reviewed by Book-A-Day Almanac, Boing Boing, Waking Brain Cells.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. Thanks Travis – this looks lovely! Can’t wait to read it…

  2. I love Frost’s formal verse, and this looks a little more free, but I may take a look at it anyway, since she is so good!

  3. I’m a huge fan of Helen Frost and I’ve been intrigued by this book for the longest time. I have just recently reviewed her novel-in-verse “Crossing Stones” and I just borrowed her “The Braid” from our library. I should look for this too, thanks to your review.

  4. Travis, I finally had a chance to read this at my local bookstore today and it took my breath away. Oh, just beautiful. I so agree with you about the possibility of this for either the Caldecott or Newbery – what a wonderful interplay of text and image.

    I, too, love Frost’s poetry, here and in her longer books. She brings such thoughtfulness to the craft and yet, in my view, the craft never overwhelms or dominates the feelings and story she’s sharing. At first, I wondered if this was free verse, and then I realized on second reading that they are rhyming stanzas – but since they’re often spread across pages, you don’t always notice. The cumulative effect builds as you read and hear the words.

    Thanks so much for highlighting this wonderful book.

    Mary Ann

  5. This book looks amazing! I’m going to order it for my kids as I’m always on the lookout for interesting nonfiction books.


  1. […] 100 Scope Notes has a lovely review and a suggestion for Step Gently Out. Great idea! […]