Sara, the daughter of a rich miner from India, comes to Miss Minchin's girls' school in London. Sara knows a lot, speaks French perfectlyshe immediately becomes the best student. She helps everybody and loves everybody, from little Lottie who is too young for school and desperately needs a mother, to the servant's-children Becky and Peter, who are not considered people at all. But the most important thing is Sara's richeswhich make her Miss Minchin's representative and evoke the mortal jealousy of Lavinia, the ex-favorite. When word comes that Sara's father has suddenly died bankrupted, Sara becomes a penniless orphan. Miss Minchin, scared that throwing the girl out will ruin her school's reputation, lets Sara stay, but makes her life impossible. Sara has to do the hardest work in the kitchen, mostly hungry, with all Lavinia's hatred and Miss Minchin's despisal now released at her. But Sara's spirit is not broken, and her true friends never leave her in her misery.