'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 18 June 2021

Review: Cardboard Cowboys

Twelve year old Lenny is the most unpopular boy at school; friendless and alone. Because of his weight, he is the target of all fat jokes and all unkindness.

But there is more to Lenny than his appearance, although he hasn’t discovered what yet.

His brother Frankie, whom Lenny loves more than anything, is somewhere unknown at this stage (to Lenny and to the reader). His parents won’t allow him to communicate with Frankie. 

Something has occurred which appears to be Lenny’s fault, for his parents have become distant toward him, and toward each other.

This sets up a mysterious unknown which we long to discover.

Lenny meets Bruce, a homeless enigma, on a seat in an isolated place in natural surroundings. A place where they both go to find peace and get away from things. A friendship is born from an altercation about Lenny’s littering.

Lenny, pushed to the edge by the constant bullying he experiences, starts missing classes. He intercepts a letter to his parents from the school, which requests a meeting to discuss his absences. Afraid to tell his father, he asks Bruce to pretend to be his dad at the school meeting.

Things work out perfectly. Bruce brings Lenny’s bullying to the school’s attention and this forces a shift in Lenny’s life. Lenny promises Bruce to attend every future class.

Through a freaky incident, Lenny learns where Frankie is.

A week of school break is imminent. Luckily, Dad is away on another long haul. Mum is lost in her world. Lenny needs Bruce’s help to get to Frankie. He is determined to uncover the truth and put his agony of unknowing to rest.

But, who is Bruce really? Why all the pretence of being a poor homeless person when he’s not?

Lenny is a child; Bruce an older man. It’s a long trip to the north of Scotland and mum thinks he’s staying with a friend for a few days.

This is a beautifully set up, suspenseful, and deeply moving story about friendship, the secrets we hold and why, and of life, with all the untrodden paths it leads us down. How we find our way out depends on the strength within us.

Title: Cardboard Cowboys
Author: Brian Conaghan
Publisher: Bloomsbury, $15.99
Publication Date: 5 May 2021
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781526628602
For ages: 9+
Type: Junior Fiction