Janine Kitson

Little People, Big Dreams: Maya Angelou

By Lisbeth Kaiser. Illustrated by Leire Salaberria, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2016

Children are never too young to be inspired by heroic women such as Maya Angelou (1928-2014).

This African-American woman lived a life of achievement, overcoming violence, adversity and discrimination in the 1960s.

Maya Angelou became a successful poet, singer, journalist, writer, actor and civil rights activist who blossomed with the support of great teachers and her love of literature. She received international acclaim with her memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969) which promoted the redeeming values of hope.

Although this informative and inspiring book seems aimed at younger readers it is an excellent launch for older students to research the American civil rights movement.

Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

By Caren Stelson, Carolrhoda Books, 2016

This excellent biographical history is based on interviews with Sachiko Yasui who as a young girl survived the world’s second atomic bomb, which fell on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. She lived through a time of horrific deaths, injuries and destruction.

Sachiko’s life after the atomic bomb was about her search for peace and hope as she battled the insidious long-term effects of radiation — leukaemia, lifelong sickness and the grief of losing loved ones. Her father exhorts her to believe in peace, to learn from her teachers and be inspired by such peace activists as Helen Keller, Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

War — no matter which side you are on — has a devastating impact. The book explores how our humanity is connected with the struggles of others. Ultimately it asks one important question: how can we ensure a nuclear war never happens again?

Always Off Centre: Tragedies, Travels and Secrets of a Sixties Child

By Lynn Aylward-Takayama, 2016

This memoir, by retired NSW Teachers Federation Officer, Lynn Takayama, shines light on a family tragedy that had been kept secret for generations. This “big secret” is about the tragic murder of Lynn’s grandmother, May Aylward. In 1927, her grandfather, James Aylward, a World War I returned soldier, deliberately and jealously shot May and then turned the gun on himself, leaving their four sons orphaned. The four brothers never spoke of their parents’ death.

The book then describes how Lynn grew up in rural Queensland in the 1950s; life was much simpler then but sustainable. She shares her adventures as a young woman travelling the world at a time when jobs were abundant. She worked in Japan where she married Yoichi Takayama; together they had two children. As a mother she became acutely aware of the gender constraints on women and how women are easily trapped by the burdens of domestic work and child-rearing.

As a mature-aged student she fulfilled her dream of engagement in education and went on to a career as a Federation member and teacher of Japanese.

This very positive and uplifting biography is an enjoyable read and challenges one to think about one’s own life, the challenges women face and why education matters profoundly.

All three books are all available from Federation Library

Janine Kitson is a Federation Life Member