I spent my Jr. and Sr. High School years living in the San Fernando Valley, a suburb of L.A. We lived at the far west end (Vanowen St. and Valley Circle Blvd. for those who know that location) and it seemed like it was on the edge of the civilized world in the late 60s. Now of course, the fields and hills that we spent countless hours in have been stripped away and homes litter the once natural landscape.
The Valley is a desert, environment wise. It gets up to the 100s during the summer (I remember it once being 116 degrees) and freezes (and sometimes even a snowflake or two will fall) frequently in the winter. As a result, the types of critters that flourish in this environment are abundant.
One of the more interesting insects that were common in our backyard garden were the Praying Mantis. They got their name from raising their forelegs into what looks like a praying position. They could also have been just as easily called "Preying Mantis", because often I would see two of them battling it out for either territory or a mate.
They were weird looking and fascinating at the same time. It is no wonder that they were the subject of a "Giant Bug" movie in the 1950s. THE DEADLY MANTIS was released by Universal in 1957, that bumper crop year of sci-fi movies.
Thirty-five years later, Crestwood House adapted it for one of their "scholastic" monster series of picture book adaptations. Written by Ian Thorne, the text is based on the screenplay by Martin Berkeley. Let's step back into the past and give it a read, shall we?