Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

Cynthia Levinson announces newest picture book

Congratulations to SCBWI member Cynthia Levinson, who just sold her latest picture book, FREE TO LEARN! The book, which will be illustrated by Mirelle Ortega, is based on the life of one boy whose family was part of the landmark 1982 Supreme Court case that granted undocumented immigrant children in the United States access to education.Author photo of Cynthia Levinson again a green grass background.

As Cynthia describes it, “The story is about a Supreme Court case that began in the federal district court in Tyler, TX. The Texas legislature passed a law in 1975 saying that school districts couldn’t use state funds to educate undocumented kids. Tyler and a number of other districts continued to let them come to school until the State Board of Education adopted a regulation implementing the law in 1977. At that point, several dozen kids, all Mexican American, in Tyler were denied access to school. Four families courageously sued, with the help of a local church, a couple of local lawyers, and MALDEF (the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund). The local judge, William Wayne Justice, who deserves a book in his own right, quickly issued an injunction so the kids missed only the first week of school. But the case crept through the courts until the Supremes handed down the decision in 1982 saying that children ‘should not be left on the streets uneducated.’ Meantime, though, some districts in Texas not covered by Justice’s decision continued to refuse to teach undocumented kids, some of whom went to patchwork schools in church basements. The case is called Plyler v Doe. Plyler was the superintendent in Tyler. Doe was one of the four aliases given to protect the families who sued.”
While the book began as nonfiction and remained so for a few years, Cynthia eventually realized that “I needed to add fictional aspects to make it come to life for kids. Fortunately, the main character, who is a real person whom I interviewed a number of times, agreed to let me make up stuff about him!”

FREE TO LEARN is scheduled for release from Atheneum in fall, 2024. Literary agent Erin Murphy represented Cynthia in the deal.