Cardboard Cowboys


It seems that Lenny’s Mum exists behind her secret letters to Frankie, her bingo stickers and TV quiz shows. Dad makes his too hot curries but is often out on his lorry runs. He’s promised to take Lenny with him, like he did Frankie, but Lenny isn’t holding out much hope.

Lenny collects the brown enveloped letter from school before his parents can read the contents. He knows that they’ll be asked to attend a meeting with his Headteacher, Mrs Hick. However, Lenny has an idea about how to get through that obstacle.

There’s another obstacle, though, the biggest one; Frankie. Lenny blames himself for what happened while it seems his parents do too. Then so much of Lenny is weighted down by his size. It seems that everything, from showers, to mealtimes, lessons, to how he knows others see himself, comes back to his weight. It’s the reason he bunks off school to sit on the bench by the river. That’s where he meets Bruce. Although Bruce is a lot older, they become buddies. Somehow, Bruce offers Lenny a feeling of significance for which he’s been searching. What more might come from this? Possibly a road trip? A journey to make it all better?

Cardboard Cowboys is the first middle grade title from award-winning YA writer, Brian Conaghan. Bookwagon loves this title for the way the writer gets right inside Lenny’s head so that we feel with him, reflect and hope…. What a superb and meaningful book!

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Cardboard Cowboys

Brian Conaghan


Bruce suggests that he and Lenny should call themselves Cardboard Cowboys when they busk in town. He says that people are ‘like countries‘- ‘full of magical things, interesting places, and each one is unique’. However Lenny doesn’t feel unique. It seems that even the shower works against him, flagging up his weight, the weight that hangs about him always.
It’s this that leads to him bunking off school, throwing his litter into the river, drawing Bruce out from his home. Thereafter, they bond, to the extent that Lenny can share his fears and then all about Frankie… Lenny cannot talk about Frankie at home. It seems that talk of him distresses Mum so that she plays ‘Blanket on the Ground’ or writes one of her secret letters. Thereafter Dad goes off in his lorry, never thinking that Lenny might want to join him.
Furthermore, not talking about Frankie moves onto not being able to talk about what is really happening at school. How can Lenny share the letter from Mrs Hick? What’s more, how can he talk about Liam McAvoy, and Shona McCabe and Grace McKenna, or any of the others? In addition, how can he share his haiku, the verse he composes in his head, or even the songs he hears, such as Trisha Woods suggests he works through when the bullying become too much.
So if something is building and building inside Lenny, a plan for a road trip, maybe the friend from the bench might be the best companion? Cardboard Cowboys is the middle grade debut from Brian Conaghan writer of the award-winning YA novel, The Weight of a Thousand Feathers. Bookwagon loves this writer’s compassion, voice and message. Therefore, we recommend this title highly to all empathetic, informed and mature readers.


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