Richard Bach, Author . Scribner $15 (160p) ISBN 978-0-7432-275

The writer who gave Jonathan Livingston Seagull his wings returns with a fourth installment of the Ferret Chronicles (Rescue Ferrets at Sea, etc.), this time focusing on a Montana ranch where "ranchpaw" Monty Ferret has a bittersweet parting with his childhood love, Cheyenne Jasmine Ferret. Monty and Cheyenne grow up together on the ranch. He has a way with animals and tries to teach her the patience to communicate with them. But her passion is for the movies, and as soon as she can, Cheyenne leaves the ranch for Hollywood and becomes a star. Monty, for his part, has an encounter with a mystical philosopher ferret who teaches him to get in touch with his "highest self." Inspired by her teachings, he starts a riding school, where he teaches kids how to lose a race ("they practiced all the ways to be graceful in defeat"), makes an audio recording of inspirational teachings and opens a sheep farm. Though Monty and Cheyenne are apart for years, their love only grows stronger, leading them back to each other. Heartfelt and earnest, this fable lacks the humor of Bach's Writer Ferrets Chasing the Muse. The story of the almost-star-crossed lovers, short on complexity and conflict, never really catches fire. Still, the characters are endearing, and Bach teaches some admirable lessons about self-acceptance and love for one's fellow ferrets that both adults and children can appreciate. Illus. by the author. (Feb.)