It's 1940 and British Sara, eight, is sent away from the bombing to her uncle in Canada. Most of the story occurs on shipboard, where her mother has placed her in the care of fellow hospital volunteer Lady Drume--a real dragon who insists on ""implicit obedience,"" forbids Sara to mix with either the crew or the other evacuees (Cockney children with ""no background""), and cuts off Sara's prized long hair when the little girl forgets an errand. Nevertheless, Sara does manage to see her unacceptable new friends, and she is lively enough to make Lady Drume's strictness seem almost justified--though it's the imperious old woman who almost gets them killed by refusing to follow orders during a German bombardment. But there are moments of sympathy, almost affection, between the two--humanizing chinks that make Lady Drume all the more effective as one of those vividly realized stereotypes of meanness that can't fail to arouse young readers. Her ultimate kindly turnabout on the Cockney issue might be hard to believe, and in fact Sara seems the recipient of an inordinate number of favors from all hands; still, you don't have to read the flap copy to be convinced that the author made just such a journey herself.