Seems like hardly anyone can see 12-year-old Lenny as anything but way too heavy, which makes school a lonely place. His mum is so detached and doesn’t seem to care, his dad is a long-distance lorry driver and so often away – and as the story unfolds, we find out the whereabouts of his big brother.
Life is hard but somehow Lenny tries his hardest not to get too down and to give things a positive spin. When things get tough, Lenny bunks off school to sit and think alone on a bench in the woods. Then one day he meets Bruce, a homeless man who lives in a cardboard shelter by the banks of the canal and they strike up an unusual friendship that leads both of their lives to change for the better.
Brian Conaghan is well known for his fabulous books for older teenagers, including Mr Dog Bites and The Bombs That Brought Us Together, and this is his first book for younger children. The content of the book is suitable for a 10 year old but the sophistication of the writing makes it more suited for 12 plus, unless children are advanced readers.
The quality of the writing is absolutely spellbinding and this book has the feeling of a modern-day classic. It is the kind of story that you read and immediately want to read again as you miss the characters you’ve come to know. This book will make readers cry but it is also hysterically funny and life-affirming. In common with all the best children’s books, Cardboard Cowboys will help readers think deeply about other people in their lives, their schools, their community – and reading it will build empathy.