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Edward Lear was an English artist and writer who lived from 1812 until 1888.
He's best-known for his nonsense poems for children, especially his limericks.
Lear also wrote a very funny, silly poem called The Owl and the Pussycat which was one of my favourite poems as a child.
Kids love poems like these and you’ll find they’re great fun to share with your children from about pre-schooler age up. The rhythm, rhyme, repetition and nonsense words make for lots of laughs and will also help your child develop the three main skills they’ll need in order to learn to read later on.
Lear didn't invent limericks but he's probably responsible for making them as popular as they are today. He wrote a book of limericks called 'A Book of Nonsense' which was first published in 1846.
It was so popular that two further editions were published during his lifetime. The book is still in print under the title Complete Nonsense.
Unlike some modern limericks, Lear’s limericks are almost all truly nonsensical in that there was absolutely no point or message in them. They don’t have punch lines or any of the sometimes very rude humour that we’re used to in so many limericks today.
Edward Lear was a true poet.
He loved the sounds of words, both real and imaginary, and delighted in filling his nonsense poems with words he invented himself. The most memorable and delightful of these is the ‘runcible spoon’ which occurs in the last few lines of The Owl and the Pussycat.
The way Lear loved to play with words and the sounds they make and the way he enjoyed inventing new words is exactly the kind of activity young children need in order to develop a skill called phonological awareness. It's an important pre-reading skill so sharing Lear’s nonsense verse (and other nonsense rhymes) with your child is not only fun but developmentally important too!
Lear led an interesting but quite sad life. He was raised by his older sister and suffered from epilepsy at a time when it was thought to mean that the sufferer was possessed by the devil.
He also had other health problems and, as an adult, lived a fairly lonely, solitary life.
Lear began drawing for a living when he was only sixteen and went on to travel widely in Europe, painting and illustrating birds and landscapes. Although he always wrote and painted, during his lifetime he was better known for his art, than for his writing.
Lear never married and eventually settled in Italy where he died and is buried.
To read more about Edward Lear and his life, click here.
To read some of Edward Lear's funny limericks, click here.