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Free to Learn

How Alfredo Lopez Fought for the Right to Go to School

Illustrated by Mirelle Ortega

About The Book

From the author of the award-winning The Youngest Marcher comes a picture book about the true story of Alfredo Lopez, an undocumented boy involved in a landmark Supreme Court case that still ensures children’s right to education today.

Alfredo Lopez has so many questions before starting second grade! Will his friends be in his class? Will his teacher speak Spanish? But then his parents tell him that he has to stay home, and Alfredo’s questions change. Why can’t he go to school with the other kids? And why is his family going to the courthouse?

In 1977, the school district of Tyler, Texas, informed parents that, unless they could provide proof of citizenship, they would have to pay for their children to attend public school. Four undocumented families fought back in a legal battle that went all the way to the Supreme Court. Alfredo was one of the students involved in Plyler v. Doe, which made a difference for children all over the country for years to come.

About The Author

Photograph (c) Sam Bond Photography

Cynthia Levinson is the author of nonfiction books for young readers that focus on social justice, including The Youngest MarcherThe People’s Painter, and Fault Lines in the Constitution. Her books have received the Sibert Medal, the Carter G. Woodson Book Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, and numerous other honors. She has two daughters, two sons-in-law, four grandchildren, and two grand-dogs—all of whom are thoroughly splendid. Cynthia and her husband divide their time between Austin and Boston, which, helpfully, rhyme, in case she gets lost.

About The Illustrator

Mirelle Ortega is a Mexican writer and artist based in Los Angeles. She is the author-illustrator of Magic: Once Upon a Faraway Land, a Pura Belpré Honor Book, and the illustrator of several books, including Small Room, Big Dreams: The Journey of Julián and Joaquin Castro by Monica Brown and Free to Learn by Cynthia LevinsonMirelle has a BFA in digital art and 3D animation from the Tecnológico de Monterrey in Mexico and an MFA from Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

Product Details

Raves and Reviews

★ "The simple language, accessible summations of both sides' legal arguments, and engaging illustrations, especially those portraying characters with sad and worried expressions, effectively capture Alfredo's viewpoint. The narrative effortlessly conveys Alfredo's longing to be at school and his parents' desperate hope for a better life for their family. . . a well-documented, age-appropriate introduction to a very emotional, divisive, and still-controversial subject."


"A tribute to a courageous family of undocumented immigrants who went to court to secure their child’s right to a free public education. . . . Frank and sympathetic in presenting a lesser-known landmark in the struggle for human rights."

– Kirkus Reviews

"A family works to ensure their son can attend school in the U.S. in this fictionalized account of a 1970s educational battle to secure education for undocumented students in a Texas district . . . In Ortega’s digital illustrations, inviting schoolroom images give way to the subdued brown palette of an intimidating courtroom setting."

– Publishers Weekly

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More books from this author: Cynthia Levinson