Fans of Kate DiCamillo’s six-volume series about Mercy Watson the porcine wonder can look forward to a new series for slightly older kids featuring Mercy’s friends. In the first of the series, Leroy Ninker, the diminutive burglar from “Mercy Watson Fights Crime,” acquires a horse of distinctive propensities. Maybelline loves compliments, eats “a lot of grub” and “is not the kind of horse who cares to be left behind,” says Patty LeMarque, her previous owner.

“Listen to the people of the world when they offer you informational bits!” Patty tells Leroy, and he tries, but he slips up on the most important one: Don’t leave the horse alone. Maybelline’s panicked flight through a thunderstorm, and Leroy’s pursuit, provide the suspense in this charming tale.

DiCamillo’s evocation of a world where people can learn how to love well by listening to those they love is an immensely reassuring one for small people who must live in a world where, regrettably, the adults so often do not heed Patty LeMarque’s excellent advice.

It looks as though Leroy Ninker and Maybelline will have a long and beautiful relationship.

ANN KLEFSTAD