Canada Reads

Why Craig Davidson's Precious Cargo resonated with parents and students in northern Ontario

Over 65 people turned out to hear the Canada Reads shortlisted author talk about lessons in empathy.
Canada Reads finalist Craig Davidson, centre, shares the stage with Thunder Bay school bus driver Dylynn Kempton, left, and student Kendal-Lynn Douglas, far right. (Raili Zgrych)

A school bus generated much discussion at an event in Thunder Bay, Ont. Craig Davidson was there to talk about Precious Cargo, a memoir capturing the year he spent driving a school bus for children with special needs. Precious Cargo is one of the five books in the running on Canada Reads 2018. It will be defended by tornado hunter Greg Johnson during the debates, which take place March 26-29, 2018.

CBC Thunder Bay's Cathy Alex, centre right, moderated the discussion between local school bus driver Dylynn Kempton, far left, author Craig Davidson, centre, and student Kendal-Lynn Douglas, far right. (Raili Zgrych)

But audiences didn't just hear Davidson's perspective. Local school bus driver Dylynn Kempton and student Kendal-Lynn Douglas were also on site to share their stories with CBC Thunder Bay's Cathy Alex. 

The author of Precious Cargo, left, spoke to Kendal-Lynn Douglas about living with cerebral palsy and to bus driver Dylynn Kempton, right, about learning to empathise with children. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

Like 17-year-old Jake in Davidson's memoir, Douglas lives with cerebral palsy. She talked about what this means for her life as a student. She mentioned the challenges her limited mobility presents and what it takes to overcome them as she works toward a degree in library and information technology.

"My personality in general is something I wish people could see more," Douglas said.

Kempton oversees the commute of several children and takes the title of Davidson's memoir to heart. She spoke of her responsibility for the safety of children and the effect this role has had on her own parenting: "I'd like to say I'm more patient...I have more patience with not just my daughter, but with everybody."

The author of the memoir Precious Cargo, left, answers questions from the audience at the Canada Reads event in Thunder Bay. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

Douglas and Kempton reinforced Precious Cargo's theme of discovering support in unexpected places. Davidson admitted he was at the nadir of his career when he took the job, but found that becoming a bus driver helped him break through a debilitating period of isolation in his life. He also told audiences that the experience helped him as a father "in a bunch of subtle ways."

Davidson fielded questions from audience members, which can be heard in the clip featured on CBC's Superior Morning.

Highlights from Craig Davidson's Thunder Bay visit to discuss the social themes of his memoir Precious Cargo. 4:23

The March 3 conversation at the Waverley Resource Library Auditorium in Thunder Bay was part of the Canada Reads regional events celebrating the shortlisted books throughout March. You can find out about Canada Reads events in your area here.

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