Dennis Haseley, , illus. by Juli Kangas. . Dial, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2924-7

A picturesque, old-fashioned English-village setting evoked in loving detail instantly invites readers into Haseley's (A Story for Bear ) sweet-natured animal tale. Bespectacled, bowler-hat–wearing Mole is a busy portrait photographer. The serious countenances of sheep, porcupines and pigs peer out from old fashioned black-and-white portraits hanging against sprightly patterned wallpaper in Mole's studio and the many homes in which he dines: "He was a popular guest... [and] told entertaining stories about the challenges of his work: how the Rabbits needed quiet so as not to be jumpy, and that the Pigs looked their best in the soft glow of sunset." Despite his full schedule, Mole feels something is missing from his life, and he sets out to find it (he returns with a wife). At first glance, Kangas's (the Furry Pal board books) watercolor-and-oil washes of handsomely costumed animals look like a cross between Rosemary Wells and Beatrix Potter; closer perusal shows distinctive, cunning touches, e.g., lawyerly geese wear bow ties and waistcoats; the flounces of a rabbit's green dress resemble lettuce leaves. Muted hues reflect Mole's understated demeanor, while the changing perspectives of double spreads and half-page illustrations add rhythm without undercutting the nostalgic mood. Ages 4-up. (June)