Madeline and her 11 friends live at a school run by Miss Clavel in an old house in Paris. Madeline is the smallest of the girls and also the most adventurous. The future of the school is in jeopardy when its stuffy owner, Lord Covington, decides to sell it. With Pepito's help (the devilish son of the Spanish Ambassador who lives next door), the resourceful Madeline hatches a plot to save their beloved home, but along the way the children encounter some bumbling would-be kidnappers on a visit to the circus. It's up to the indomitable Miss Clavel to come to their rescue.