Precious Cargo

Precious Cargo

My Year Driving the Kids on School Bus 3077

Book - 2016
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For readers of Kristine Barnett's The Spark , Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree and Ian Brown's The Boy in the Moon , here is a heartfelt, funny and surprising memoir about one year spent driving a bus full of children with special needs.

With his last novel, Cataract City , Craig Davidson established himself as one of our most talented novelists. But before writing that novel and before his previous work, Rust and Bone , was made into a Golden Globe-nominated film, Davidson experienced a period of poverty, apparent failure and despair. In this new work of riveting and timely non-fiction, Davidson tells the unvarnished story of one transformative year in his life and of his unlikely relationships with a handful of unique and vibrant children who were, to his initial astonishment and bewilderment, and eventual delight, placed in his care for a couple of hours each day--the kids on school bus 3077.
One morning in 2008, desperate and impoverished while trying unsuccessfully to write, Davidson plucked a flyer out of his mailbox that read, "Bus Drivers Wanted." That was the first step towards an unlikely new career: driving a school bus full of special-needs kids for a year. Armed only with a sense of humour akin to that of his charges, a creative approach to the challenge of driving a large, awkward vehicle while corralling a rowdy gang of kids, and unexpected reserves of empathy, Davidson takes us along for the ride. He shows us how his evolving relationship with the kids on that bus, each of them struggling physically as well as emotionally and socially, slowly but surely changed his life along with the lives of the "precious cargo" in his care. This is the extraordinary story of that year and those relationships. It is also a moving, important and universal story about how we see and treat people with special needs in our society.

Publisher: Toronto :, Alfred A. Knopf Canada,, [2016]
Copyright Date: ©2016
ISBN: 9780345810519
Branch Call Number: 371.9 DAV
Characteristics: viii, 297 pages ; 21 cm


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Feb 25, 2020

Almost every Canadian kid has sat in a school bus. You remember the biting wind at the bus stop, the smell of a hundred pair of wet woolen mittens on a rainy day, the bullies at the back of the bus, the friendship of your seatmate, and the blast of cold air every time you cross a railroad. The author brings all these memories back in his book, Precious Cargo, when he takes a job as a school bus driver. As the story progresses, we learn that Davidson agrees to take on a route for students with disabilities.
Disability has been a subtopic in biomedical ethics, but the disability of ethics can stand on its own merits, and is now a relatively new field. Davidson, perhaps unintentionally, addresses some of the touchstone issues, such as the tendency to address the person behind the wheelchair instead of speaking directly to the disabled person. People with physical or intellectual challenges are finding their own voice.
The author's style is easy and casual, and yet it deals with some tough topics. By the end of the book you will have a new respect for these kids and their families, and hopefully not look upon people with disability with fear, but just ordinary folk.
Despite the tough subject matter, the book is fun to read, clearly the sign of a talented writer.

Apr 14, 2018

I have not read a lot of memoirs but this one was wonderful! It pulled me in right from the start. The author, Craig Davidson, is candid, funny, and compassionate in his writing. His memoir chronicles his year as a school bus driver for students with special needs. Having worked with people with special needs, I was able to connect with this book that much more than other books and it brought back some lovely memories for me and explored some issues that I have faced in my own experiences. Precious Cargo was relatable (especially so if you work or volunteer with children), insightful, and full of emotion. I can understand why it was one of the books nominated for Canada Reads 2018. It has piqued my interest in reading more memoirs.

Apr 14, 2018

Despite its unevenness, I'm giving this one a 4-star rating for what Davidson has attempted to do. Relating an experience that affected the writer so personally and profoundly must have posed a great challenge: keeping it from becoming maudlin or preachy. And to be frank, there are passages that verge on greeting-card sentimentality. Davidson is fairly good at self-deprecating humor but that's been done far better by others. There is a fair dollop of sheer silliness.
But where it really counts, Davidson gets it right. He manages to penetrate far beyond the challenges that his five young passengers face, without sugar coating anything about them; they emerge as whole, vital, complex persons. Likewise, he's disarmingly honest about his own failings (I disagree with those who characterize him as a loser; he's a flawed human being trying to find his way).
In addition to the story itself, Davidson manages to convey, in striking fashion, the writer's dilemma and the essence of why we all value fiction. Referring to both the teenage fantasies of his charges and his own attempts at writing, he muses "We all want a bigger life, don't we? ... The inability to find complete satisfaction is woven into the heart of the human condition. We all feel it, that witching hour thought: Isn't there more than this? ... That is why such narratives never go out of style -- because if you do it just right, others will want to live in the world you've created."
The book earned its inclusion in the 2018 Canada Reads shortlist.

Mar 06, 2018

I have to agree with some of the other reviewers: too much about him and not enough about the kids. I finished the book wondering, if it was such a fulfilling, worthwhile job, why did he only last one school year doing it? Which lottery did he win that he was able to just up and quit in June?

BPLpicks Feb 05, 2018

Get Canada reading! Precious Cargo was shortlisted for the 2018 Canada Reads Debates being held March 26-29.

Feb 03, 2018

Charming, easy read which I found myself getting annoyed with as time passed. Somehow the focus of the book is too much on Davidson and not focused enough on the kids on the bus. He appears to marvel at his ability to notice and care about the kids, and to start treating them like anybody else. He misses the point, in that they ARE like everyone else and have the same needs and wants. He is not special because he noticed them. Plus, from what he does say about the kids, they are significantly more interesting than he is and have more to say.

CatherineG_1 Jan 31, 2018

Canada Reads - Short listed book

Craig Davidson was at a point in his life where he realised he needed a job and nothing else was in sight. He became a bus driver for students with special needs. These kids all had something different in their background but they had one thing in common, Bus 3077.
As they rode the bus during this year, Craig learns about these kids and the physical challenges and bullying they face, everyday.
Over their time together, Craig and his crew become like a family, knowing how to help each other on bad days and have fun on other days.
Davidson's story of his time on the bus taught him things about the kids and himself but also taught the reader lessons as well.

Great read!

Feb 13, 2017

I quite liked this book, which is a very light read. I could have done without the 'novelisation' sections; they didn't add anything. And I found I didn't care about his life enough to keep reading about it; I wanted to hear about the kids.

Oct 16, 2016

A wonderful read about the bus driver who was able to see that the individual worth of each passenger was far more important than any of the challenges they had to face. He is a beacon of kindness and patience.
Highly recommend.

Jul 29, 2016

A heartwarming, well-written book of bus stories.


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Apr 19, 2016

"Precious Cargo" is a memoir of the year that the author worked as the bus driver of a small group of special-needs students. Davidson became not just a driver but also a mentor and friend to his teenage passengers, especially the aspiring writer, Jake.


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Nov 02, 2016

"Bullying is at its root about social positioning ... The (five disabled) kids on my bus occupied the lowest rung on the food chain ... But some of the kids at their schools ... hadn't got the memo that reads: ' You don't hunt the easy meat.' ... [But after confronting kids who mocked the bus and shouted slurs and laughed] It took a while for me to understand that most of the kids on my bus were perfectly happy to be on it. .... So the problem was one of perspective - my own. ... As Vincent said: 'It makes them look stupid, not us.'" (p. 86-92)

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