Young Author Translates 4,000-Year-Old Text to Reveal Fascinating Insights into Ancient Egypt


(NewsUSA) - Educators everywhere should scrap their current lesson plans and make the new book Be a Scribe! by 16-year-old Michael Hoffen and co-authors Dr. Christian Casey and Dr. Jen Thum part of every ancient history curriculum in every elementary school around the country. 

Whether for the classroom or frankly any room, Be a Scribe! might be the most unique, fascinating, entertaining, informative and educative book you’ll read this year. 

Young Hoffen, while in middle school, was introduced to the joys of translating ancient texts and never looked back. During the pandemic, he embarked on this ambitious project to bring ancient Egypt back to life. 

This book is an extraordinary translation of a papyrus dating from ancient Egypt’s Middle Kingdom era some 4,000 years ago. The text, known as The Instruction of Khety, tells the story of a teenager in ancient Egypt, Pepi, who wonders what career path he should choose -- an important matter still contemplated today by millions of teenagers 40 centuries later. 

Michael with bookThe book already has been getting very high-profile coverage. National Gallery Victoria (Melbourne), in anticipation of their blockbuster exhibition Pharaoh!, has chosen the book to be represented in their bookstore. This exhibition will comprise of the largest loans the British Museum has ever undertaken. 

Also the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York will carry the book in the main book store and in their Uris store next to their educational center. 

In the text, Pepi’s father, Khety, takes him on a long journey up the Nile to enroll him in a school far away from home, where Pepi will learn to read and write. Along the way, Khety explains 18 other terrible jobs Pepi could end up having to work at if he is not hired as a scribe. 

Khety’s marvelous descriptions of the many other jobs are blunt and humorous: the smith or sculptor with “fingers like crocodiles;” jewelers and carpenters with arms ruined; the barber exhausted “in order to fill his stomach, like a bee working to eat;” the trader, who is bitten by fleas and mosquitoes; the sandal maker, who has the taste of leather in his mouth all day; the gardener, who only rests when he dies; and the weaver, who gives bread to the doorkeeper “just to let him see daylight.” 

Sail up the Nile with an ancient Egyptian father and son and discover what daily life was like along the way. Experience the wonderful world of ancient Egypt with the help of countless artifacts and paintings in this beautifully oversized hardcover edition. Delight in 4,000-year-old humor and immerse yourself in the choices facing a teenage boy in Egypt.  

The book also provides some ancient words of wisdom from the father, everything from staying out of trouble, minding your manners, and following orders. It also provides a great introduction to hieroglyphs, which many associate with the pictures and paintings but actually represent the sounds of the Egyptian language. 

Hoffen is the youngest-ever recipient of the annual Emerson Prize, awarded by the Concord Review for outstanding promise in history. Be A Scribe! is Michael’s first book in a series intended for young readers.  

His co-authors on this project are two Egyptologists: Dr. Christian Casey,  who now works as a researcher at Freie Universität Berlin, and Dr. Jen Thum, a curator at the Harvard Art Museums.  

Prepare yourselves to go “on a journey through the hopes, fears, struggles and skills of the ancient people who lived in the shadows of the pyramids.” 

Learn more at and purchase the book at

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