While thirteen-year-old Rachel dreams of becoming Pike River’s Sunbonnet Queen, her cousin Charlie Hocking dreams of leaving. But both dreams are threatened by the presence of a fierce old lady who lives just outside of town. At first Charlie is more puzzled than frightened by the fact that the woman looks younger each time he sees her. But gradually, he realizes she’s a phantom, a mad ghost who is eerily involved with the Sunbonnet Queen contest. When she threatens Rachel, Charlie decides to stay in Pike River, for a while at least. It’s a wise decision, for with the help of an unexpected ally he saves Rachel’s life on a Fourth of July morning the Hockings will never forget.