Sewing the Rainbow – perfect Picture Book Friday

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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

Ages: 4-8

Genre: biography

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.

This entry was posted in Biography, children's books, Children's literature, diversity, LGBTQIA and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Sewing the Rainbow – perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Joanna…I can’t wait to get a hold of this book…what a fabulous idea for a nfpb. And I LOVE your activities…the button flag is amazing!

  2. I’m surprised I haven’t seen this story before. And, I didn’t realize that the rainbow flag is celebrating its 20th anniversary. What an important story about diversity. I love Magination Press Books, but have not seen this one.

  3. Hmmm… Looks like another great book I will be requesting my library to purchase. And I love your button activity!

  4. Gabi Snyder says:

    I can’t wait to read this one. I hadn’t heard of Gilbert Baker and his story sounds powerful and fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Barb says:

    I love how you said we should “never be ashamed of letting our inner sparkle show”!
    Thanks for highlighting this book.

    • Joanna says:

      It reminds me a lot of Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton’s picture books about The Very Fairy Princess who is all about what makes you sparkle.

  6. Jilanne Hoffmann says:

    This one’s a MUST HAVE for our school library. I’m surprised that the SFPL only has 4 copies. Very surprised. I’m going to call them on this.

  7. I love this book (on hold at my library) and your activitiy. What a great choice for a #PPBF. Thank you.

  8. Wow! I haven’t seen this before. Love the cover. Great activity too. Thanks Joanna.

  9. Joanna says:

    Yes, it has just been released.

  10. Thanks for sharing this book. I love, love, love the button flag! I agree that we all should celebrate our colorful selves – and remember to honor other people’s colorful selves.

  11. Patricia Nozell says:

    So happy to learn that this #PB biography exists. I didn’t know the history of the rainbow flag or Gilbert’s story. I hope that every public and school library features this book. And I love the button rainbow, too!

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