Review from The Bulletin:
Ferrell Savage doesn’t even realize that his family has a terrible secret until Bruce Littledood, a fellow twelve-year-old with a knack for genealogical research, arrives on scene. Bruce is angry that Ferrell’s accidental death-defying stunts at the town’s Big Sled Race overcome his own impressive win, and, in revenge, is threatening to reveal the histories of Ferrell’s and his best friend Mary Vittles’ families, unless Ferrell shows up for a rematch down a steeper, more dangerous hill. Ferrell and Mary undertake investigative work and discover that one of Ferrell’s ancestors was Alferd Packer, a traveler whose snowed-in conditions caused him to eat his five traveling companions, one of whom was Mary’s relative. The two friends agree to the contest, only to get stuck together in a whiteout themselves, which forces them to overcome the potentially deadly circumstances. The subject of cannibalism is treated with cheerful absurdity: Ferrell and his family are vegan because his parents believe that they can’t otherwise control their inherited taste for flesh, and Mary points out the implications of their names. Ferrell is compellingly drawn, as he struggles to deal with newfound fame while hiding his burgeoning (and seemingly reciprocated) feelings for know-it-all Mary. A screwball take on an unusual topic that’s tempered with sweetness and honesty, this will appeal to youngsters who want to sink their teeth into something a little less conventional. TA
Staff review from The Tattered Cover bookstore:
This is a great middle grade read, written right here in Denver. It’s funny, but it does deal with the competitiveness that can hit in our pre-teen years (and longer) as well as protecting your family from ridicule while dealing with your first real crush. But really, it’s Alferd Packer (or Alfred–it;s a little confusing) making things difficult for Ferrell and his best friend Mary–it’s pretty hard to ignore a historically known dead cannibal.I read this book in just a couple of hours, laughed a lot, and LOVED it!” ~Jackie
–Jackie reads books of all genres and all ages, and she knows when she finds an outstanding read.
The Secret of Ferrell Savage.
Gill, J. Duddy (Author) , Chaghatzbanian, Sonia (Illustrator)
Feb 2014. 192 p. Atheneum, hardcover, $15.99. (9781442460171).
As we meet 12-year-old Ferrell, he is reluctantly building a sled to use in the upcoming day-after-Christmas Big Sled Race on Golden Hill. Mary, his best friend and, lately, his heartthrob, has convinced him to compete. His homemade sled (a lawn chair superglued to mismatched skis) does well until he hits a bump; Ferrell flies through the air, turns flips, lands at the bottom of the hill, and becomes a hero for his daring exploits. However, it is Bruce Littledood who has actually won the race, and now he is out to get revenge because Ferrell stole the spotlight. A rematch is scheduled after Ferrell and Mary realize that classmate Bruce (a master genealogist) knows their deep dark secret (it involves a bit of cannibalism in the family history). The outcome is predictable, but the action, suspense, and pure fun of getting down the hill is worth the trip. Offer this fine first novel to fans of Janet Tashjian’s My Life series or the Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce.
— Martha Edmundson