Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, Non-Fiction, picture books

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of a Flag and a Movement

Sewing the Rainbow: The Story of Gilbert Baker and the Rainbow Flag, by Gayle E. Pitman/Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown, (May 2018, Magination Press), $16.95, ISBN: 9781433829024

Ages 5-8

Artist and gay rights activist Gilbert Baker started out as a little boy in Kansas who “was full of color and sparkle and glitter”; a little boy who would draw gowns and costumes alongside his clothing store proprietor grandmother. But his father would destroy his drawings and push Gilbert toward more “manly” pursuits: slingshots, erector sets, and sports. Being drafted at the age of 18 made Gilbert more miserable as he suffered hazing from his fellow soldiers for refusing to carry a gun, but being arriving in San Francisco finally brought the sparkle back to Baker’s life. He taught himself to sew and began designing dresses, costumes, and banners for activists and entertainers. And then came his friend Harvey Milk, who asked him for Baker’s greatest undertaking: create a flag to unite the gay rights, or LGBT, movement.

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. I love and adore Dr. Pitman’s observation that our generation, and future generations, will see the flag and know that it’s okay to be your colorful, sparkly, glittery self.”

Back matter goes into more detail about Gilbert Baker and the rainbow flag (which, chosen by Baker, is in part inspired by a Bible quote: Genesis 9:13). 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.


I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading ( I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (, where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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