Until the grand simplistic moral zonks you, just sit back and enjoy McGowen's total immersion in this gentle, fur-bearing civilization and the wise badger Kippatuk's quest for the secret magic of the vanished Long Ago Ones. Kipp's companions on his journey to the mysterious Haunted Land include the young raccoons Jikatik and Ikatibby, Riff the wolf, Ushkee the otter and Arwheek the rat, and their explosive, consonant-rich names are as poetic as Kipp's theories about the nature of the stars, the lives of the Long Ago people and the principle behind his treasured relic, an old pocket mirror. Thanks to Kipp's cleverness, the dauntless group rescues a village of rats from a rattlesnake ""dragon,"" escapes a bear who has been enslaving smaller animals and reaches the place where he hopes to find the Long Ago men's secrets. It's no surprise when we finally decipher the strange writing over the door and see that it reads PUBLIC LIBRARY, but then a friendly chimp, Cheeteechik, shows up to explain that it was mankind's loss of faith in science, ""the magic that had protected them and made them great,"" that triggered their downfall. Perhaps science is all this peaceable kingdom needs to complete its utopian social order (though we hope Riff doesn't learn that wolves are supposed to be carnivores). We'd advise you to breeze fight by the pretensions to wisdom; but in spite of them this cheerful, well-favored odyssey is too good to miss.