This is the second time I have found this book on the library shelves and reached for it, taking it home with me. Having had insect macro-photography as a habit in the past (and still sometimes to this day), it is the cover that first grabs me. An ant on the tip of a dew-covered leaf, gesturing as if gamely posing for the photographer, his slim waist and multiple legs sharply visible against the soft white and green blur of an out of focus background. The title is inviting, cool, and peaceful: a yellow, semi-cursive font with the hint of a river's swirl. I frequently realize that collect books for their covers, for their titles, books I have no inner need to read but that have messages I need to re-remember typed onto their spines. Step Gently Out is such a message. Be peaceful and heed the beckoning of Mother Nature. This is an American book (the author is from Indiana and the photographer from Michigan) and from the jacket flap it sounds like Helen Frost wrote the poem after seeing insect photos by Rick Lieder, the photographer. She writes, "When I first saw Rick's photographs, they reminded me of begin a child and watching insects for hours. So I went outdoors and looked closely and discovered that the insects were still there, all around me."
The poem is spread through the book, the text artfully arranged in front of full-page, full-color, high-quality photographs. The most text is on the last page, where there are 12 whole words. Some pages contain just three or four words, which I found an invitation to spend time appreciating the illustrations rather than just rushing forward. At first glance, because of how the phrases are split across many pages, it appears to be free form poetry, but there is a gentle rhyme and rhythm to the book. The near rhyme "…grass….past" fits together without struggle due to the distance in pages. When you reach the last line of the poem, don't close the book just yet. A hidden treasure lies at the very end where a two page spread serves as an appendix and key for all of the insects featured: photo, name, and some general details against a faint photographic background of a six-legged observer.