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Friday, June 1, 2012

Step Gently Out, written by Helen Frost and illustrated Rick Lieder. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2012. $18.00 ages 4 and up

"A cricket leaps
and lands,
then sits back
and sings."

I am such an admirer of Helen Frost and her beautiful writing. This just adds fuel to my fire!

In her new picture book she takes her readers 'quietly' into the world of insects as they go about their daily business:

"Step gently out,
be still,
and watch
a single blade
of grass."

As I watched the national news last night and saw YoYo Ma working with a group of Toronto middle school students as they creatively celebrated the learning that they had done together, he mentioned how glorious it was that they were expressing themselves in the outdoors with poems, music and dance. Our kids don't get outside enough; too often, there seems no time to explore what is right in front of them and they miss the wondrous beauty of the world that surrounds them. It is not different for too many adults.

Day turns to night, and then returns with splashes of morning dew. There are few words needed, in Helen Frost's practiced and skilled hands, to let us in on the wonder that is the insect world. Her words encourage her readers to stop and take note of the insects that so many choose to berate; crickets make too much when we are trying to sleep, moths flutter out of the darkness toward lightand frighten us, spiders leave sticky webs in the most inappropriate places. This plea to look more closely in admiration is accompanied with stunning photographs by Rick Leider.

His photos are full of color, infused light, and breathtaking close-up looks at the variety of the insects that populate back yards and nearby parks. The insects included are quite common, and not so. Their beauty radiates from leaves, stalks and blades of grass. The endpapers offer a golden light that gleams as a bee flies silently past and two fireflies hover in a moonlit expanse of grasses.  It is sure to encourage getting outside to take a much more personal look at the life that we often miss. I would love to have the morning dew photograph hanging on my wall, where I might bask in the wonder of nature each day.

In backmatter, each of the featured creatures is described with a short, informative note:

"Orb-weaver spider
Spiders are often found around the
edges of houses, under rocks, near
drainpipes, on bushes, or in the grass.
Some spiders spin webs that stretch
from one branch to another. Early on
a summer morning, when light shines
on drops of dew that have formed on
a spiderweb, the web is easier to see.
When you see a web, you will often
find a spider."

Isn't it amazing to think that this is the first of more books to come from this talented team...a trilogy, at the very least! I will wait for another, and it will be with bated breath. .

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