A colorful tribute to Gilbert Baker and his rainbow flag.
Gilbert, “a little boy who was full of color and sparkle and glitter,” grew up “where everything was gray and dull and flat.” His grandmother’s clothing boutique supported his love for fashion, soon crushed by paternal disapproval. He could be “his colorful, sparkly, glittery self” only in San Francisco, moving there after his brief, disastrous military service. Surrounded by the city’s famed painted ladies, Gilbert rediscovers his passions, 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. Some textual shifts are jarring, as when Gilbert "received a letter that knocked every last bit of sparkle out of him” and is suddenly in uniform, with no explanation about the draft. Similarly, before the flag’s invention, “There was just one thing that continued to blemish their beautiful city. It was a symbol that, in Gilbert’s community, was a constant reminder of evil.” This confusing allusion to the pink triangle is explained only in the densely packed author’s note, and the word “gay” never appears in the story; readers must wait to learn about the rainbow’s direct connection to LGBTQ identities in the endnote.
It’s clear this book has a lot of love for the flag’s promise that “it’s okay to be your colorful, sparkly, glittery self,” but it elides a clear description of the communities it’s for. (Picture book/biography. 4-8)