The American Library Association named two of his books Caldecott Honor Books, a prestigious award for children’s book illustration: The Story of Jumping Mouse in 1985 and Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale in 1988.
Mr. Steptoe twice received the Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration, for Mother Crocodile (text by Rosa Guy) in 1982, and for Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughter in 1988.
While all of Mr. Steptoe's work deals with aspects of the African American experience, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughter was acknowledged by reviewers and critics as a breakthrough.
Mr. Steptoe hoped that his books would lead children, especially African American children, to feel pride in their origins and in who they are.
Mr. Steptoe was among the handful of African American artists who have made a career in children’s books.