María José Ferrada

María José Ferrada’s children’s books have been published all over the world. Her first adult novel, How to Order the Universe, has been translated into nine languages. Ferrada has been awarded numerous prizes and is a three-time winner of the Chilean Ministry of Culture Award. How to Turn Into a Bird received the Chilean Art Critics Circle Award. She lives in Santiago, Chile.


  • A tender coming of age tale.

    —The Washington Post

  • Enchanting. . . . As in Ferrada’s past work, this one has much to say on themes of acceptance, conformity, and societal expectations.

    —Publishers Weekly

  • Provides remarkable insight. . . . The theme of the value and place of nonconformity in today’s society will ring true.

    —Library Journal

  • Touching and transfixing.

    —Ms. Magazine

  • Reveals the kindnesses and cruelties that humans are capable of.

    —San Francisco Chronicle

  • Enchanting.

    —Book Riot

  • A masterful, provocative, and timely artwork that shows what can happen to those who risk a life of freedom that diverges from the norm.


  • Fascinating.

    —Chicago Review of Books

  • Sharp, sweet, compelling. . . . a delightful and propulsive read.

    —Powell's Books

  • Timeless and deeply resonant. . . . This book reminds readers that to allow yourself to be different from the rest of the world is a rare and beautiful thing, no matter the risks.

    —The Independent Book Review, Starred Review

  • Here is a master storyteller.

    —The Adroit Journal

  • Excellent. . . . Ferrada, much like Jacqueline Woodson in Red at the Bone, knows that freedom may be found in the fetters of youth, allowing her readers to learn along with her characters.

    —On the Seawall

  • A blissful escape. . . . Gorgeously detailed, layered, and a true pleasure to read.

    —The Avocado Diaries

  • Exquisite.

    —Historical Novel Society

  • Well worthwhile. . . . a carefully crafted poignant story.

    —The Complete Review

  • How to Turn into a Bird takes a piercing look at how the human spirit can be nurtured, even set free, by curiosity and compassionate attention—or altogether quashed by fear and judgment. María José Ferrada and translator Elizabeth Bryer have created a vivid, poignant atmosphere, both mournful and tender.

    —Robin Myers

  • With all the brutal simplicity of a fairy tale, María José Ferrada lays bare the blind and violent intolerance that reigns on the precarious outskirts of an unequal society. A deceptively simple tale in a sensitive translation by Elizabeth Bryer—this book is a gift to English-speaking readers.

    —Megan McDowell

  • Exceptional.

    —The New York Times Book Review

  • The novel is about the length of a baby carrot and its prose is so spare it almost reads like a blueprint—but you know what they say about good things and small packages.


  • María José Ferrada examines the Pinochet regime through the eyes of a traveling 7-year-old in How to Order the Universe. Traveling salesman D is his daughter, M’s, whole world. But readers will catch the subtle shifts taking place around them in Chile, even if the novel’s young protagonist does not.


  • Charming. . . . Fans of The Elegance of the Hedgehog will want to make time for this one.

    —The Chicago Review of Books

  • Filled with tenderness, awe, and love, How to Order the Universe. . . . is a gem of a book, short and brilliant, a shooting star we would want to hold on to, but, as anything worth experiencing, can’t.

    —The Common

  • Arresting.

    —Sydney Review of Books

  • A tale that captures a child’s perspective on a world created and disrupted by adults.

    —The Christian Science Monitor

  • I was so delighted with it. . . . It’s one of these novels in translation that you can read in a sitting or extend it out in a way that’s really lovely.

    —So Many Damn Books podcast

  • This quick and quirky book is as charming as it is unsettling, as appealing as it is wise.

    —Kirkus, Starred Review

  • A moving tribute to childhood, Ferrada’s novel is an enthralling tale of resilience, deception, and trauma during a dark time in Chile’s history.

    —Publishers Weekly

  • A debut as haunting as it is charming, a study in contrast between the simplicity of childhood and the heaviness of adulthood. Readers will fly through this slim novel, which is perfect for discussion.


  • Outstanding.

    —World Literature Today

  • Through a child’s clever but innocent point of view, this inventive debut novel considers family, hope and the harsher realities of 1980s Chile.

    —Shelf Awareness

  • Sparse, poetic. . . . Ferrada organizes her work in short, breathable chapters, each of which is constructed like a poem without ever feeling pretentious.

    —Rain Taxi

  • A Paper Moon-esque story set in Pinochet-era Chile. . . .  A really bittersweet story of a girl’s love for her dad and the things in life that even the most intelligent children don’t understand when they are young.

    —Book Riot

  • How to Order the Universe is rife with wisdom, lists and wishes, and Ferrada unpacks the strangeness of M’s early years in poetic and simple prose.


  • Intimate, intense. . . . Luminous and tender, How to Order the Universe is a novel about the love—filled with words unsaid—between a father and daughter who are caught up in the tides of change that engulf their ordinary, ordered way of life.

    —Foreword Reviews

  • How to Order the Universe is a dreamscape of a book. In an assured and striking voice, María José Ferrada tells the story of M, a girl who skips school to join her traveling salesman father on the road. Along the way, M witnesses tragedy, desire, secrecy, and grief as she finds her own truths and learns to separate her father’s disappointments from her own. I adored this compelling, wise, and utterly unique coming-of-age tale.

    —Tara Conklin, author of The Last Romantics

  • Complex in its simplicity, and full of life and mystery.

    —Frances de Pontes Peebles, author of The Air You Breathe

  • Powerful and accomplished.

    —Complete Review

  • Honest, endearing and nostalgic—it seems to scratch an urge one didn’t even know they had. Its length and accessibility may make it the perfect novel to pick up on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea.

    —Sounds and Colours