María José Ferrada

María José Ferrada’s children’s books have been published all over the world. How to Order the Universe has been or is being translated into Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, and German, and is also being published all over the Spanish-speaking world. Ferrada has been awarded numerous prizes, such as the City of Orihuela de Poesía, Premio Hispanoamericano de Poesía para Niños, the Academia Award for the best book published in Chile, and the Santiago Municipal Literature Award, and is a three-time winner of the Chilean Ministry of Culture Award. She lives in Santiago, Chile.


  • “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.”


  • “Ferrada clearly understands the interiority of a child. . . . A coming of age story no one quite expected.”

    —The Chicago 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

  • “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

  • “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

  • “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.”


  • 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