Sewing the Rainbow: A Story About Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag

by Gayle E Pitman (Author) Holly Clifton-Brown (Illustrator)

Sewing the Rainbow: A Story About Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

5th-6th grade Finalist in 2019 Children's Choice Book Awards

2019 ALA GLBT Round Table Rainbow Book List

National Parenting Product Award Winner (NAPPA)

Gilbert loved visiting his grandmother's clothing store. He'd sit next to her while she sewed and draw beautiful gowns and costumes. Gilbert dreamed of someday bringing these drawings to life. But one day, his father took away his art supplies and tore up his drawings. Surrounded by building blocks and Erector sets, sports gear and slingshots, Gilbert's colorful, sparkly, glittery personality started to fade, and he, too, became gray and dull and flat, just like the Kansas landscape. "When I grow up," he dreamed, "I'll go somewhere that's filled with color."

Gilbert Baker always knew he wanted a life full of color and sparkle. In his small, gray, flat Kansas hometown, he helped his grandma sew and created his own art whenever he could. It wasn't easy; life tried over and over again to make Gilbert conform. But his sparkle always shone through. He dreamed of someday going somewhere as vibrant and colorful as he was.

Set against the backdrop of San Francisco during the gay rights movement of the 1970s, Gilbert's story unfolds just like the flag he created: in a riot of color, joy, and pride. Today the flag is everywhere, even in the small town where Gilbert grew up!

Includes a Reader Note that provides more in-depth discussion of the beginnings of the gay rights movement and a more detailed look into Gilbert Baker's place in our shared history.

Kirkus Reviews

A colorful tribute to Gilbert Baker... creating the rainbow flag after a conversation with Harvey Milk. The art is beautiful and bright, transitioning powerfully from a subdued Kansan landscape to a flamboyant Bay Area.... It's clear this book has a lot of love for the flag's promise.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 2--This picture book focuses on notable events in the life of Gilbert Baker, creator of the Rainbow Flag, simplified into a fablelike story about a boy who was "full of color and sparkle and glitter." The colorful illustrations complement the simplicity of the text, contrasting the plain white or gray skies of small town Kansas and military life with full-bleed illustrations of a colorful San Francisco. The text maintains the allegorical distance throughout, referencing a symbol that was "a constant reminder of evil" without naming that symbol (the pink triangle), and reducing the interactions between Harvey Milk and Gilbert Baker to a single statement from "his friend Harvey." The text never uses the word "gay" or explicitly references the LGBTQ community, although that language can be found on the back cover and in the Reader Note. "Colorful, sparkly, and glittery" are instead used euphemistically throughout to stand in for gay or queer. A two-page densely packed "Reader Note" provides additional biographical information and context for many of the scenes in the book, giving much more detail about the San Francisco gay community and Baker's role in it. Rob Sanders's Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag provides greater historical context. VERDICT An oversimplified but useful text offering background on Gilbert Baker not found in other titles about the history of the Rainbow Flag.--Amanda Foulk, Sacramento Public Library

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.


An enduring symbol of the LGBTQIAP+ community.

Review quotes

5th-6th grade Finalist in 2019 Children's Choice Book Awards

2019 ALA GLBT Round Table Rainbow Book List Selection

NCSS-CBC 2019 Notable Social Science Trade Book for Young People

National Parenting Product Award Winner (NAPPA)

The story of the rainbow flag is just as much Gilbert Baker's story as it is the LGBTQ+ movement's story. Dr. Gayle Pitman tells the story of a sensitive boy who loved art and grew up to unite the world. Holly Clifton-Brown's colorful illustrations give us an apple-cheeked, sweet-faced boy who just wants to create; her artwork goes wonderfully hand-in-hand with Dr. Pitman's prose to engender empathy in reader... This story pairs nicely with Rob Sanders and Steven Salerno's book, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, which has a nice little cameo by a grown-up Gilbert. Sewing the Rainbow is a must-add to your biography collections. —Mom Read It

I love how this story teaches us about Gilbert Baker and his legacy, but is also unapologetically direct about the importance of letting kids be themselves even if their personalities don't fit into some kind of society approved gender-specific boxes. Personalities are meant to shine, not be squashed and molded into a form that we think is appropriate. —From the Inside

I am so happy to see a picture biography about Gilbert Baker and his legacy, which can at times become sidelined when when we focus on Harvey Milk in our queer history....I appreciate how paralleling the story of his creating the rainbow flag is his story of being free to be himself after childhood and early young adulthood experiences of peoples' disapproval of him. This is, of course, what the flag represents. The story celebrates unity, in diversity, symbols, creativity and that we should never feel ashamed of letting our inner sparkle show. The illustrations are bright and colorful, perfect for the story. This is an important addition to your units on inclusion, tolerance and lgbt history.—Miss Marple's Musings
Gayle E Pitman
Gayle E. Pitman, PhD, is a professor of psychology and women's studies at Sacramento City College. Her teaching and writing focuses on gender and sexual orientation, and she has worked extensively with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. She is the author of This Day in June, When You Look Out the Window, and Sewing the Rainbow. She lives in California. Visit her at and follow her on Facebook: @GaylePitmanAuthor, Twitter: @GaylePitman, and Instagram: @GaylePitman.

Kristyna Litten studied illustration at Edinburgh College of Art. Kristyna is influenced by books and animation from Eastern Europe which has led to a fascination for illustrating and writing her own picture books. She prefers to draw quickly to give an energetic line quality to her illustrations, often adding color and other hand-produced textures digitally. She lives in England. Follow Kristyna on Facebook: @KristynaLitten and Twitter: @KristynaLitten.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
May 20, 2018
Children's Choice Book Awards
ALA GLBT Round Table Rainbow Book List Selection

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