Seymour, the Formerly Fearful

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A Candle in the DarkWhat the Book is About:

Bookish soon-to-be fifth grader Seymour is a klutz who’s afraid of heights, water, riding a bicycle, bugs, and pretty much everything else. So, when his athletic older cousin comes from Israel and wants to see how American kids have fun, Seymour has to step way out of his comfort zone, accompanying Pesach to Manhattan and even learning to ride a bike! This is a sweet story about family, friendship, and conquering your fears.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Seymour’s cousin Pesach is Israeli and has just come out of the army. He tells Seymour about hiking, scouts, and sports in Israel and occasionally uses Hebrew words, such as ben-dodi (cousin).
  • Seymour talks with his parents and Pesach about Jewish naming traditions.
  • Seymour’s family goes to temple on Rosh Hashanah.
  • Pesach introduces Seymour to the famous quote by Hillel, ‘Im ain ani li, mi li? Ve ka’asher ani le-atzmi, ma ani? Ve im lo achshav, az matai?’, which means, If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?

Positive Role Models

  • Seymour is ashamed that he is afraid of so many things and that he has finished fourth grade and still can’t ride a bike. With Pesach’s help, he decides to face one of his biggest fears and learns to ride, persevering with his efforts even when Pesach is away, and finally working up the courage to admit the truth to his best friend, Ted.
  • Pesach is supportive of Seymour, gently encouraging him to try new things, meet new people, and helping him learn to ride his bicycle. He is kind and loving, and he takes the role of an older brother.

Content Advisory

None.

Talk it Over

Seymour is ashamed that he can’t ride a bike, so lies to his best friend about what he is doing when he is learning. Ted is upset because he knows Seymour is lying, but not why. Have you ever been afraid to admit something to a friend? How did it turn out?

More For You

Seymour is named after his maternal grandfather and would rather be named something more modern. Although Seymour is not a name with Jewish roots, it was popular for American-Jewish baby boys in the first half of the 20th century, along with Sidney, Murray, Irving, and Morris, which were all originally, and still are, British last names. While these names haven’t been popular for decades, other previously “old-fashioned Jewish” names, like Max, Noah, Jacob, and Eli are back in style!

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