They Cage the Animals at Night
by Jennings Michael Burch
As we get closer to winter break, my thoughts turn to family and the time we will spend together during the holidays. It reminds me of how blessed I am to have my family close, but it also makes me think of those who are for some reason or another not with their families. This sad thought reminds me of a book by Jennings Michael Burch, They Cage the Animals at Night, which is the true story of Burch’s childhood during the early 50’s. Without any warning or explanation, Jennings' mother drops him off at an orphanage since she was unable to take care of him due to illness. Though she promises to “be right back,” months pass before he sees her again, and his return home is only temporary. Through the next few years, Jennings is in and out of foster care and orphanages. He learns that some people, even adults, can be incredibly cruel and some are immensely caring. It is the immensely caring people who help Jennings survive his turbulent childhood.
This is a book I often recommend to students who liked A Child Called It. Although Burch did not suffer physical abuse to the extent that Pelzer did, he certainly suffered emotional turmoil. Like Pelzer, Burch was able to triumph over a troubled childhood.
I love working in the middle school library because each day I get to work with wonderful students. In addition, I have access to lots of interesting books. It is always fun to help students connect to books they like, and to talk about what they are reading.