How much history of an ancient language and its writing can you get into a book, under a hundred pages, aimed at teens reading level, and leavened with cartoons? A good deal, as it turns out. This is without doubt a book to spark interest in real history in the young, and would probably make a good school text. History with humour is now something of an industry, and as Egyptian glyphs and art in general are close to cartoons already this book combines them quite appropriately.
We are pratically danced through the development of writing and the history of the Egyptian language in general, via ideograms, phonograms, and the rebus principle, the Egyptian alphabet and determinatives, and a very little grammar. (And, although he does not go into it, I finally figured out why many languages like French and Greek have gender - the earliest written languages, like Egyptian had nouns and proper nouns, but then qualified whether they referred to male or female by adding a man or woman 'determinative'.) We glance through archaic, Old, Classical/Middle, Late, demotic, and finally Coptic Egyptian. The Rosetta Stone decipherment of Egyptian is recounted. With this book and some effort you can decipher a pharaoh's name-cartouche, count in glyphs, and if stuck in the British Museum on a rainy day, read a sentence of the complexity of 'Have a nice day' (only eight glyphs!). Concise, informative, and enjoyable.
This report prepared by Michael JR Jose