On the first night of Hanukkah, an orange kitten tiptoed through Lenny's backyard. She had icicles on her whiskers and snow between her toes, and she was lonely. When she saw the golden light of the Hanukkah candles in Lenny's window, she scrambled to the sill and peeked in.
"Yikes!" yelled Lenny. "There's a green-eyed thing at the window!"
"M-mew ..." squeaked the kitten in a shivery voice.
"It's a cat!" cried Lenny. He ran to open the door.
The kitten bounced through the snow and into the house.
"Happy Hanukkah, cat," said Lenny.
"Poor thing. She's cold," said Lenny's mother. She wrapped the kitten in a towel.
"And hungry," said Lenny's father. Quickly he warmed some milk.
Then Lenny held the kitten against his sweater until her orange fur was fluffy-dry and her nose and toes were warm. "Can we keep her? She has no collar. Can she be my Hanukkah present?" he asked.
"Oh, no. A cat is a terrible present," said Lenny's mother. "Cats scratch the furniture and tear the curtains."
"They chase birds and leave hair on the couch and get into all kinds of mischief," Lenny's father added.
"But we can't put her out in the cold," cried Lenny.
"All right," said Lenny's mother. "She can stay until Hanukkah is over."
Lenny fed the cat a potato latke, and they all drank hot cocoa and sang Hanukkah songs. At bedtime, Lenny tucked Hanukkah Cat into a shoebox and kissed her goodnight. "Please try to be good," he whispered. "If you don't tear the curtains or do any of those things, maybe Mommy and Daddy will change their minds."CHAPTER 2
"Mew, mew, meowooo ..." yowled Hanukkah Cat early the next morning.
Lenny tumbled out of bed and raced to the kitchen. "Ssshhh," he said. "Be good!" He gave her milk in a saucer and gave himself bread and butter. "Now let's get dressed and go out so we won't wake anybody."
In the yard, Hanukkah Cat nibbled at frozen grass and watched the fat sparrows. Lenny rolled three big snowballs and made a snowman. He put a flower pot on his head and a stick sword in his hand.
"Guess who this is, Hanukkah Cat," he said. Hanukkah Cat padded over and rubbed against Lenny's leg.
Lenny propped the garbage can cover against the snowman. "That's his shield. Now do you know?" he asked. Hanukkah Cat shook the snow from her orange head and trotted up the steps to the front door.
"It's Judah Maccabee. Do you know who he is?"
"Meow," said Hanukkah Cat and stared hopefully at the door.
Lenny came up and tucked the little cat inside his jacket. He could feel her purring against his shirt as he sat down. It tickled.
"I'm going to tell you about Judah Maccabee," he said, "so please don't fall asleep.
"A long time ago, before we were born, the Jewish people lived in the Land of Israel. They had houses and farms and a beautiful Temple where they prayed to God. One day a bad king came and captured their land. He put statues in the Holy Temple and forced the people to bow down and pray to them instead of praying to God.
"Judah Maccabee and some other Jews got very angry. They wouldn't pray to statues. Instead they decided to fight the bad king.
"The king brought in horses and soldiers and big, fighting elephants. But Judah wouldn't give up. He kept fighting until he and his soldiers chased the king's big, strong army right out of the Land of Israel ...
"Cat, are you listening?"
Hanukkah Cat wasn't purring anymore. She was curled into a warm ball against his stomach, fast asleep.
"Breakfast," called Lenny's mother.
He stood up slowly, careful not to wake Hanukkah Cat.
"Happy dreams," he said. "I'll tell you the rest of the story later."
That night Hanukkah Cat and Lenny and his mother and father lit two Hanukkah candles.