Gr 5-7-The inhabitants of the Pond are alarmed when humans move into the old house nearby. Unlike the gentle creatures in Robert Lawson's Rabbit Hill (Viking, 1944), these animals are a militant lot. Spurred on by General Santo Domingo, a power-hungry crow, the Alliance Elders advocate all-out war. Salamander Mooch and the younger critters, however, prefer peaceful coexistence. When the General pilots his dive-bombing squadron against the new family, the animal kids launch a counteroffensive to stop the crows. During the battle, 11-year-old Oliver captures Mooch. Although the boy has never had much empathy for animals, he enjoys caring for his new "pet." Then, he uncovers a strange gem hidden in the attic and finds that it allows him to transform into an animal. Oliver, who has never had a real friend, finds one in Mooch, who gains self-confidence as he introduces his new companion to amphibian life. When the two learn that the General plans to use the anti-human campaign for his own evil schemes, they must unite humans and creatures for mutual defense. Considerable doses of humor leaven this ecological adventure. The Alliance members waver between their natural frog-eat-fly instincts and their need to work together. There is snappy dialogue, lots of slime jokes, and body humor. Readers will appreciate the combination of serious issues and funny moments.-Elaine E. Knight, Lincoln Elementary Schools, IL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.