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They Cage the Animals at Night
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They Cage the Animals at Night

4.29  ·  Rating Details ·  6,629 Ratings  ·  568 Reviews
Burch was left at an orphanage and never stayed at any one foster home long enough to make any friends. This is the story of how he grew up and gained the courage to reach out for love.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 1st 1985 by Signet (first published January 1st 1984)
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Apr 29, 2010 Diane rated it it was amazing
Caging More Than Just Animals
Interestingly enough, we got to read this in middle school. We also got to keep the books that were assigned to us. I still remember certain scenes where Jennings, the narrator, and the author of this autobiographical novel either received amazing amounts of love or terrible amounts of abuse.

Set in the 1950s, in New York City and its environs, we get the unforgettable account of a few years of Jennings's childhood. With his mother too tired, sick, and beaten down to
Jan 16, 2013 Ali rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoirs
I can't, with this book. I literally can't.

The writing isn't perfect, and the character's voice wavers between an innocent, naive 9 year old and someone who is much, much older. It works sometimes, because someone who's been through his experiences will be older beyond his years. It just seemed at times the author was trying to include that "out of the mouth of babes, incredibly insightful" voice. However, I did appreciate that no one was really cast as the "bad guy," because everyone in his fam
Winter Sophia Rose
Jul 05, 2016 Winter Sophia Rose rated it it was amazing
Insightful, Touching, Eye Opening, Heartbreaking & Mesmerizing! A Courageous Read! I Loved It!
Dec 13, 2012 Mac rated it it was amazing
They Cage the Animals at Night is the inspiring story of a young boy's childhood life. The boys name is Jennings Michael Burch. His mother gets very sick and sends Jennings and his 4 brothers into foster homes and orphanages. Follow Jennings through his childhood as he deals with poverty, sickness, and unfairness. Two of his brothers are drunks, Larry and George. His other brother, Walter, is too busy studying and doing school work, he cannot take care of Jennings. And his final brother, Jerome ...more
Ricky Ceniceros
Oct 05, 2010 Ricky Ceniceros rated it it was amazing
It's a true story thats really shocking,The book “ They Cage The Animal At Night” is a very sad and depressing book(I cried). It talks about a little boy named Jennings Michael Burch. He is a little boy who was left by his mother at an orphanage. He is 8 years old, curly red hair, white with freckles. Also while he was their at the orphanage he was being teased and laughed at by all the other boys in their. It took place mostly in a small room in the orphanage, very plain gloomy feeling , crampe ...more
Dec 12, 2013 Magdala rated it it was amazing
I have just remembered this book right now. I remember that it was a really great inspiring book and it was just when he was a-little boy:( I know that I cried in this book.

I remember reading this book in either 8th grade or 7th and the whole grade got to meet Jennings. He looked really old with blondish grayish hair, I think, I don't remember much details but we got to ask questions and he first told us his life story when he was little.

The little boy on the cover isn't him, they used a diffe
Sandy Yang
Feb 27, 2010 Sandy Yang rated it it was amazing
Shelves: junior-year
They Cage the Animals at Night, written by Jennings Michael Burch, is one of the many abuse-related books that I have read, and this one, like the Dave Pelzer series, is one of my favorites. The first time I read this book, I was still a tween, and rereading the book now, five years later, I understand it more deeply. By understanding the main points of the book, I paid more attention to other aspects of this heart-throbbing book. For example, I explored the emotions that the protagonist, little ...more
Apr 30, 2015 Karla rated it really liked it
Shelves: e-book
3.5/5 stars

This is such a gripping story, and the fact that it's a true makes my heart ache.

From the age of 9 through 11, Jennings goes from home after another, suffering from loss, by losing his family when he had to leave, to losing his friends he made in the home, to dealing with sickness and death. Jennings goes through so much at a young age and it's heart breaking to read his story. This novel really gives us an insight as to how the foster care system works (though not as many churches in
Emily Vance
Sep 06, 2012 Emily Vance rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely love this memoir. I read it for my Honors 9 English class as a summer assignment and at first I was really bummed because I thought it would be so boring. Well, it's not. It made me realize what's important and to be grateful for everything and everyone in my life. I definitely think everyone should read it.
Oct 12, 2012 Spmsu rated it it was amazing
They Cage The Amimals At Night. Genre: Memoir By: Jennings Michael Burch

This book is a tragic book about a boy, named Jennings Michael Burch. He is in and out of orphanages, foster homes,, and institutions over a four year period. It is based in mostly Brooklyn, New York. While he is in and out of orphanages, his mother is in and out of hospitals. She is dealing with physical and mental illness. He feels left out and alone. He has to deal with the physical abuse of the hands of strangers. But
Jun 04, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it
They Cage the Animals at Night is about kids that have to move from family to family. This is an important book to read because this is a problem that a lot of kids have to go through. This book focuses on one specific kid, Jennings Michael Burch, that has to go into the foster homes system after his mom gets sick. The first time he went into a foster home he was very scared and confused; the environment of this group home is very cold and impersonal. With no caring adults or friendly kids to he ...more
Oct 17, 2012 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommend, memoir
I wish I could tell you why They Cage The Animals At Night popped into my head tonight, of all nights. I read this book probably 20 years ago, when I was a small child myself. I feel that I need to read this book again to perhaps gain more insight than I did as a child. But from what I do remember of the book, it's this:
Jennings was bounced in and out of orphanages & homes
At one orphanage, they had stuffed animals, but they were taken away (caged) each night
Doggie was his companion who wa
May 13, 2016 Abbey added it
They cage the Animals at night was a great book. I found the book never boring even though it wasn't action-packed. I found myself nervous for Jennings whenever he would go to a new home. I loved how Jennings kept Doggie by his side his entire journey. I almost cried realizing all the events in this story were true, and that people can be so cruel. The story was about Jennings Burch, or Jennings Michael Burch, after he hated his first name sounding like a last name. His mother was sick and his b ...more
Mar 01, 2011 Jacqueline rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 22, 2011 Alyssa rated it really liked it
Absolutely devastating and heart-wrenching, but at the same time one of the most incredible books I've ever read. Not incredible in terms of story, of plot, or of writing, but incredible in that an American child could experience such disturbing horrors, and still be able to surpass them enough to live a successful adult life, and to write about them for the world to read. Definitely recommended for those looking to adopt or foster a child (as an idea of what they might (unfortunately) have suff ...more
Yamile Nunez
I thought this book was very interesting because it's very sentimental and many people can connect their life with this book. To add on, this book was very interesting because this book was like around the 1900's and it talks about a little kid named Jennings Michael, he was abandoned and struggles through out his life journey ever since he was a little kid. The poor little kid was being mistreated and nobody cared about him except 2 people. His mother left him at an orphanage because she was to ...more
May 24, 2015 Hassinger rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who like sad shit.
I first read this one in middle school and decided to read it again now because it had stayed with me and I wanted to see how it held up.
When I say it "stayed with me", I suppose what I really mean is that it was kind of scarring. This is the most depressing book you will ever read. Hands down.
If it weren't a true story, I would say that the author is sadistic bastard and discourage people from reading it.
Thing is, it IS a true story and stands alone for its shock value, if nothing else. Set in
Kaitlyn Sennett-Heims
May 11, 2015 Kaitlyn Sennett-Heims rated it really liked it
They Cage The Animals At Night
By Jennings Michael Burch
When I read Jennings Michael Burch’s memoir, I felt like I was watching it all happen right in front of me. The title of my book is They Cage The Animals At Night. My author is Jennings Michael Burch, and he is telling the story of his life. My memoir covers about 3 years of Jennings’ life. My main characters are my author, Jennings Michael Burch, Jennings’ “foster parent”, Sal, and Mark, Jennings’ best friend. Jennings probably wrote this b
May 18, 2014 Heidi rated it it was amazing
They Cage The Animals At Night is an autobiography about Jenning’s troubled childhood. He goes through many things a child should never go through. Beginning at the age of eight and a half he went to the very first, of many, foster homes he would be in. It was all so strange to him but he found a very good friend he knew he would always be able to count on, a stuffed animal whom he named ‘Doggie’. Along his whole journey he finds everyone leaves his side except for Doggie. Doggie is with Jenning ...more
Nathan Oakley
May 08, 2014 Nathan Oakley added it
Shelves: hated
This book doesn't even get one star from me.

I hated this book! This was THE most depressing and cruel books that I have ever read in my entire life. It was just one bad thing after another. There was no stability in this kids life at all. He goes to about 3 or 4 different orphanages. His mom gets sick or tired or was too weak to support him so he keeps having to go back to the orphanages. Once he starts making friends in the orphanages he has to leave because his mom picks him up. Then, once he
Ansley Wallace
May 08, 2014 Ansley Wallace rated it liked it
The book "They Cage the Animals at Night" by Jennings Michael Burch was a pretty good book. Yes, it was very sad and made you look at and appreciate things more/differently but I think thats a good thing and we all need to reevaluate things every now and then. I think Burch wrote and told the story well and it made it even better of a book that it was his autobiography. I could really feel all of his emotions and everything that he was going through, through his words. I think the book was very ...more
May 20, 2014 Kwvonderlippe17 rated it it was amazing
The tale of Jennings Michael Burch is an autobiography about Jennings learning to survive in different foster homes. He is constantly being left by different people in his life and can only find constant love from one thing, a stuffed animal he names 'Doggie'. Doggie is given to Jennings in his first foster home, when he was eight and a half. Jennings takes Doggie everywhere with him and talks to him when he has no one else to. Jennings is ridiculed, abused and neglected throughout his childhood ...more
Kerrie Mccoy
May 06, 2014 Kerrie Mccoy rated it liked it
"They Cage the Animals at Night" was a really good book. My heart broke a lot during reading this because I felt like I was him, and like the bad things were happening to me. I couldn't relate with Jennings because I never went to a foster home, but I did feel really bad for him. When I first started reading this book I did not realize that it was an autobiography, however when I found out that it was it blew my mind. My favorite character that helped Jennings get through the tough times was the ...more
Jul 21, 2015 Leanne rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book left me speechless and brought me to tears and on quite a few occasions.
Faith Brantley
May 08, 2014 Faith Brantley rated it did not like it
Shelves: hate
They cage the animals at night is LITERALLY one of THE WORST books i have ever read. The book lacked any kind of depth and the characters are enough to get under anyone's skin. the books only reedeming feature is a save few, lovable and relatable characters like Sal. Nonetheless, this book literally made me want to puke with its disgusting, vivid descriptions of beatings and abuse at the orphanages and the brattiness of the main character.

Unfortunately, the actual antagonist of this book to me
Emily Person
May 09, 2014 Emily Person rated it liked it
Okay... so, this book was incredibly depressing, not to mention the fact that it was based on the author's personal experiences! Yes, it was well written, however I can't get passed all the horrendous things Jennings had to go through!


Like, how he was removed from his home and taken to an orphanage more than once! He slowly lost his closest brother to an illness and the others to alcohol. He had to endure straight up evil temporary parents. He attempted to live on the s
Ramonita Rodriguez
a sad, poignant story of a little boy's quest to love and be loved...moving from foster home, orphanages, group homes, running away, a dysfunctional birth family...his only belongings being a small trash bag filled with is possessions, a change of clothes and the only one entity in his life whom was present throughout his life, his stuffed toy whom he called Doggy.He experienced physical, emotional and mental abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to take care of him, and he broke many ti ...more
Beyonce King
Mar 27, 2015 Beyonce King rated it it was amazing
Jennings Burch the main character starts to think back on his life. He was a boy living in Brooklyn with a mother with a mental illness who decided to take him to an orphanage. He lives through staying in different homes, moving around, and always wondering why his mother left him. He meets a bus driver named Sal who becomes his "best friend" on his account. Sal is also use to being around because his mother also left him at an orphanage. Jennings Burch's autobiography was a good book in my opi ...more
Bri Leibold
Mar 01, 2016 Bri Leibold rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
This is one of my favorite books of all time. It is a true story about the struggles of a young boy as he is sent to various foster homes, boys' homes, and other awful places. He strength is inspirational. I like this book because it is a true story. Have some tissues ready, this book will make you cry!
Erin Vaughn Murphy
Sep 12, 2016 Erin Vaughn Murphy rated it really liked it
I thought that this was a really moving story about a young boy's struggle with the foster care system in the 1960s. Jennings shows readers how good, and more importantly, how bad the situations could be. I really felt sympathy for him, and I think that readers will be touched by his story.
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“Sister, why do you do that?"
"Do what?"
"Cage the animals at night?"
"Well..." She looked up and out through the barred window before answering me."We don't want to, Jennings, but we have to. You see, the animals that are given to us we have to take care of. If we didn't cage them up in one place, we might lose them, they might get hurt or damaged. It's not the best thing, but it's the only way we have to take care of them."

"But if somebody loved one them," I asked, "wouldn't it be a good idea to let them have one? To keep, I mean?"

"Yes, it would be. But not everyone would love them and take care of them as you would. I wish I could give them all away tomorrow." She looked at me. There were tears in her eyes. "But I can't. My heart would break if I saw just one of those animals lying by the wayside uncared for, unloved. No, Jennings. It's better if we keep them together.”
“The table and chair legs were like bars of the cage around me. This time they weren't keeping me in, they were keeping her out.” 2 likes
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