Young Rump comes across as funny and humble, creating rhymes, and reflecting on his life and surroundings. Small for his age, he is the butt of jokes. He lives with his Gran in a village where everyone works in the gold mines, trading what little gold dust they find for grain to make their bread. Being small and weak Rump rarely finds anything, and he and Gran never have enough to eat.
Then Rump rescues his mother’s old discarded spinning wheel from the woodpile, and discovers he can spin straw into gold, and trouble begins. Rump goes from self-discovery, to spinning straw for the queen in exchange for her first born child. Warned by Gran and his friend Red not to spin, Rump soon discovers that magic comes with a price, and often dire consequences. The King, the Miller, and his sons evolve as greedy evil characters, intent on lining their pockets with gold, who think nothing of causing harm to anyone, to get their way. The Miller and his sons attempt to exploit Rump and the Miller’s dimwitted daughter Opal, who marries King Bartholomew, known as King Barf. Rump attempts to rescue Opal from a dire fate, but not all goes according to his plan.Seeing the tale through Rump’s eyes, Shurtliff renders stock fairytale characters, like the villainous Miller and his sons, and King Barf, and helpmates with enough detail added to their identities, to make them interesting; Shurtliff reveals a hero who asks for none of what he's forced to endure. His Gran, and Rump’s often gruff, but loyal friend Red, are sterling supporting characters to this very charming and well-plotted story, as are the bothersome gold-loving pixies, the messenger gnomes, and the loving, but grubby trolls. The book’s ending definitely begs for a sequel, which hopefully, Ms. Shurtliff will provide.