This is a wonderful story of a little girl, Sara Crew, who is the apple of her widowed father's eye. She has lived in India all her life, but she is forced to go to an exclusive boarding school, Miss Minchen's Seminary in London to be properly educated. She becomes the prize pupil when Miss Minchen discovers how incredibly wealthy her father is. Sara and her father are unusually close because her mother died when she was very young and he treats her as a little princess. Fortunately, she has been also taught to behave like a princess and to be patient, kind, good natured and polite.
Sara needs all of those attributes when it is found that her father has invested all of his money in diamond mines in South Africa and they have failed. Not only that, but he has died from a brain fever brought on by the devastating news. Miss Minchen finds out the new status of her pupil and promptly makes a drudge of her. This is really where the story begins. Sara has been well brought up and has a wonderfully vivid imagination and these things help her to endure her wretched life. She has always been kind to the little scullery maid and now finds her a friend and helper.
One of the nicest things about this book is the way it encourages reading and imaginative play as well as good manners and real integrity. Sara has to find ways to deal with her reduced circumstances without becoming bitter or giving up. If you have seen the Shirley Temple movie or one of the other versions, you may be surprised at just how much Hollywood has changed this delightful book.