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Cardboard Cowboys

Written by Brian Conaghan

Key Stage 2 Key Stage 3 Adventure Stories Family / Home Stories

LoveReading View on Cardboard Cowboys

A warm and funny story of the unlikely friendship that helps one lonely, bullied young boy see himself differently

Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | May 2021 Book of the Month

Multi-award-winning Brian Conaghan specialises in misfits, characters on the edge looking in, and he has a wonderful ear for authentic dialogue and for giving us male protagonists with emotional depth. He creates characters that rapidly find a place in your heart and who will make you laugh out loud and shed a few tears. This is the first time that he has written for a younger audience and does so without losing any of his trademark authenticity or sharp, wisecracking dialogue. Brian’s older teen fans will also find this an enjoyable read. Lenny blames himself and his size for everything. He believes his Mum and Dad blame him too. His beloved older brother is in a Young Offenders Institute as a result of defending Lenny against some thugs beating him up. His coping strategy is to hide and his favourite bunking off school place is a canal side bench. Tossing his IrnBru can into the canal introduces him to Bruce- another outsider- living in a cardboard home hidden away on the bank. Despite this traumatic start the pair strike up a life-changing friendship. The reader will gradually get to hear their stories as Lenny is able to talk to Bruce, unlike his parents or teachers and inveigles him into helping to avoid a school dilemma and then to accompany him on an epic journey to see his brother. But Bruce is no pushover and Lenny has to face up to some stiff challenges in return and in so doing discovers courage, resilience and talents that he would not have believed he had. We eventually learn Bruce’s heart-breaking story too, but without any saccharine ending we feel there is hope and a future for both. Warm hearted and memorable this should go to the top of your wishlist for school libraries and every child's bookshelf. 

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The LoveReading LitFest invited Brian Conaghan to the festival to talk about Cardboard Cowboys, his first book for younger readers.

The digitally native, all year round, online literature and books festival, with new content released every week is a free-for-all-users festival.

What are you waiting for? Check out a preview of the event and sign up to become a member. 


Joy Court

More About This Book

Brian Conaghan says, ‘As a writer I am always drawn towards characters who exist within the margins of society; about those who are easily forgotten about. I feel that both Lenny and Bruce fall into that category. Every school has a Lenny and every community has a Bruce. With Cardboard Cowboys, I'd like them to be remembered.’ 


Cardboard Cowboys Synopsis

Multi-award-winning author Brian Conaghan's first book for 10+ readers is a future classic brimming with humour and heart.

Even though I found him living in a house made of cardboard, Bruce is a massive legend. FACT. So this mine and Bruce's story. You don't have to believe it happened, but it did. All of it.

Nobody at school can see past Lenny's size to the person within. So when lessons get too tough, Lenny always goes to his bench to think. At least there no one can see him. Then one day, midway through lobbing his empty can of Irn-Bru into the canal he's stopped by Bruce. Bruce lives in a cardboard home hidden away by the banks, and he doesn't approve of kids messing up his front lawn ... But a bumpy start soon gives way to an unexpected friendship - and an epic road trip - that will change both of them for life ...

Cardboard Cowboys Reader Reviews

In addition to our LoveReading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

This warm-hearted book about an unlikely friendship is a must read! It touches on multiple themes, including grief, bullying, injustice, discrimination, missing family, homelessness, kindness, friendship and more! Full review

Elleanore Phillips (Age 13)

Cardboard Cowboys is a great book. It's the story of an unlikely friendship between Lenny and Bruce that changes their lives forever. Full review

Bella Rix (Age 14)

Its a funny and adventurous book which is also about having self confidence. Full review

Elissa Watkin (Age 8)

We enjoyed this book so much that we couldn’t put it down! Full review

The Book Brothers (Age 13 & 15)

I really enjoyed reading this book, Bruce was a very funny character who would appeal to readers. I would happily add this to my book shelf at school! Full review

Andrew Smith (Teacher Reviewer)

Cardboard Cowboys Press Reviews

Praise for The Weight of a Thousand Feathers;

Conaghan is a sublime storyteller who can make the reader hang on his every last word (and all of the others) - The Times

An emotional rollercoaster of a book, written with so much heart it bounces off of the page ... A bold, life-affirming read - Irish Independent 

Praise for When Mr Dog Bites;

This is a portrayal of young male bonding, complete with all the lively banter of true camaraderies, at its most tender and affectionate - Irish Times

Beautifully observed and hilariously uncomfortable - Guardian 

Praise for The Bombs that Brought Us Together;

Believable, funny, brave and vulnerable young male characters ... thought-provoking ... drama and tension in plenty ... irrepressible humour - The School Librarian

Book Information

ISBN: 9781526628602
Publication date: 15th April 2021
Author: Brian Conaghan
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 352 pages
Year Groups: Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3
Topics: Adventure Stories, Family / Home Stories

About Brian Conaghan

Brian Conaghan was born and raised in the Scottish town of Coatbridge but now lives in Dublin. He has a Master of Letters in Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. For many years Brian worked as a teacher and taught in Scotland, Italy and Ireland. His novels include The Boy Who Made it Rain, When Mr Dog Bites, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal, and The Bombs That Brought Us Together, published in 2016, winning the 2016 Costa Children's Book Award.

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