After giving readers a brief glimpse of Lear in the Italian home where he spent his last years, Kamen--author of a well-regarded children's biography of Kipling (1985)--flashes back for an overview of his life's main events. Youngest of 21 children in a family plunged from wealth to penury, his battle with ill health was lifelong; he was apprenticed as an artist/engraver, but his twin talents as painter and beloved inventor of nonsense came to the fore while visiting Lord Stanley's home and charming his children. Later chapters trace Lear's peripatetic life as a landscape artist, still inventing entertainments for young readers. Basing her narrative primarily on secondary sources, Kamen does use anecdotes and quotes from Lear's letters to provide some of the flavor of his personality. Kamen's own less pungent art is not fully integrated with Lear's; but between them they give the spirit, if not the essence, of this funny, enigmatic man. A competent introduction. Bibliography.