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Book Review: Cardboard Cowboys by Brian Conaghan

Synopsis: 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 is a fun-loving, Louise Rennison-esque story about a young boy and his emotional journey through understanding how to unlearn the prejudice he and others inflict upon each-other. Children at school bully Lenny for being overweight and most of his teachers do little to help him, so the only place he feels safe is at a bench by the canal. There he meets Bruce, a homeless man who lives in a cardboard box who he early on in the story calls 'dafty'. The two become friends and Lenny learns to see Bruce as more than homeless, the same way he wishes people would see past his weight.

Two other very important relationships in this story are the relationships between Lenny, his Dad, and his brother Frankie. Dad is very 'tough love' and finds it hard to connect with Lenny who is less into stereotypically 'male' hobbies and behaves in ways his father would deem 'soft'.

Lenny's dad tends to idolise his older brother Frankie which Lenny is jealous of, but we come to learn through Lenny and his mother's letters that Frankie left home due to the pressure of sticking up to Lenny's bullies for him and has become depressed. Lenny blames himself for Frankie leaving and assumes his parents resent him for it, which all culminates in a much needed heart to heart.

This book is truly a wonderful story to teach your children about compassion, unlearning prejudice and that men and boys being emotionally vulnerable with each-other is a necessary, healthy part of life.

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