Title: Sewing the Rainbow – The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag
Written by: Gayle E. Pitman
Illustrated by: Holly Clifton-Brown
Publisher: Magination Press, October 2018
Themes: lgbtqia+ history, gay flag, rainbow flag, Gilbert Baker
In a small town in Kansas, where everything
was grey and dull and flat, there was a little boy
who was full of color and sparkle and glitter.
His name was Gilbert.
Sewing the Rainbow is the powerful story of Gilbert Baker and the creation of the rainbow flag. This book takes readers from Gilbert’s childhood in a small town in Kansas where he didn’t fit in, to his historic artistic career in San Francisco. Today the flag is everywhere, even in the small town where Gilbert grew up! This book shows that when you see a rainbow flag, you’ll know it’s okay to be your colorful self. (Publisher)
Why I like this book:
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. This is a biography of young Gilbert growing up in the early 50’s in Kansas, being drafted into the army, and of discovering new freedoms of when he is stationed in San Francisco in the early 70’s. The community and tolerance he experienced in SF led him to revisit his early childhood dreams of sewing and creating colorful designs, dreams that were destroyed at an early age by his father. In 1978 he designed the first rainbow flag, a symbol for the diversity of the LGBT (QIA+) community. This flag is still today a universal worldwide symbol of diversity.
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.
The book comes with an extensive Reader’s Note for parents and older children, which explains Gilbert Baker’s background in depth, as well as his important role in the gay rights movement.
Get those art supplies out and have some fun. Easy Peasy and Fun has a ton of rainbow crafts for kids.
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.