Bloomsbury Children’s Books will publish Brian Conaghan's first middle-grade title, Cardboard Cowboys, in April 2021.
Hannah Sandford, who has been editor for Conaghan's previous YA titles at Bloomsbury, bought world rights in all languages (excluding US) from Nicola Barr at The Bent Agency.
Billed as a "life-affirming comic drama packed with the empathy and understanding", Cardboard Cowboys will follow Lenny, who is bullied at school for his size. When things get too much Lenny escapes to his safe place: a bench by the canal. Here Lenny meets Bruce, a homeless man who lives in a cardboard house hidden away by the banks. Their unexpected friendship leads to a road trip that will change both of their lives.
Publication will be supported by a key sales, marketing and publicity campaign to launch Conaghan on to the middle-grade scene, including appearances at major literary and family festivals, focused schools activity and collaborations with both homeless and bullying charities, says the publisher.
Sandford said: "Brian packs his books with more humour and heart per square inch than almost any other author I can think of. His unique voice and crackling way with dialogue are tailor-made to inspire middle-grade readers in important and lasting ways."
Conaghan commented: "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."
Bloomsbury has published Conaghan's YA titles such as When Mr Dog Bites, which was shortlisted for the 2015 Carnegie Medal, and The Bombs That Brought Us Together, which won the 2016 Costa Children’s Book Award.
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