BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 452

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 452

IELTS Academic Reading Test
BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 452

The birth of the child detective

Emil and the Detectives, by Erich Kastner, was an instant hit when it was published in 1928. Just three years later it was adapted into a film and the book and its sequel, Emil and the Three Twins, have since been translated and adapted many times. But the book is not simply notable for its success; it also brought a great deal of innovation to the world of children’s literature.

The hero of the book, Emil Tischbein, is a boy who is set a task: to take some money by train to his grandmother, who lives in the big city, Berlin. Money is a big deal as he is being brought up by a single mother. We hear that his father was a plumber but died, and his mother has to work as a hairdresser.

With a touch of realism that is the flavour of the book as a whole, we learn that, ‘Sometimes she is ill, and then Emil fries eggs for her and for himself’. So, Emil is anxious about the money in his pocket on the train. He is also anxious about a crime he has committed: together with his friends, he has drawn a moustache on the face of the town statue of the Grand Duke Charles.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

On the way to Berlin, Emil sits in a carriage with an odd gentleman, Herr Grundeis, and though he tries to avoid it happening, Emil falls asleep. When he wakes up, his money has gone and so has Herr Grundeis. This occurs not long after a quarter of the way through the book, so for the rest of the story we live with Emil’s swirling emotions, his meetings with a group of boys in Berlin, and the eventual capture of Grundeis.

The reason why Emil doesn’t involve the police is because he fears exposure as the crimina~ who daubed the Grand Duke’s statue. The word ‘detectives’ is in the title, but in a way the book is a detective novel in reverse, as it requires Emil and the boys to first catch the criminal and only then prove his guilt to unbelieving adults.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The secret to the book’s popularity may be lost on many adults, who may doubt the likelihood of children taking such control of events. After all, the detective in most fiction is usually a clever adult who will make the world safer for us ordinary mortals. Perhaps it is even a contradiction that children, who are the symbols of innocence, can be as clever as their fictional adult counterparts.

But that, of course, is the point of the book: real children, with flaws (they might fall asleep on the train, or lie to their parents), manage a very difficult job. We should remember that children’s fiction often appeals to a child’s desire for power and independence. As smaller, un-powerful members of the human race, they are greatly attracted by heroes that are capable of acts beyond a child’s usual capabilities.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

When Emil and the Detectives first appeared, it broke new ground in many ways at once. It is probably the first of the ‘child detective’ books, a genre taken up so successfully by other authors. It is also one of the first books for children that gives us a full picture of a child in a single-parent family of very little means, and one of the first which treats the city as a place of excitement. And it appears to approve of the actions of children working together for a common purpose without the guidance of adults.

As if this wasn’t enough, there are many more technical innovations, too. The book breaks from the usual format of a single line of narrative told to us in the third person by a knowing narrator, and adds witty one-page commentaries on people appearing in the story. These are written in the first person as if the narrator is thinking aloud for our benefit and talking directly to us.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

The dialogues, too, are innovative since in the original German the boys whom Emil meets talk with a Berlin slang. Whereas in most children’s books of the time urban speech told the reader that that person was bad or stupid, in Emil and the Detectives the local dialect seems to confirm the resourcefulness of the boys. Even the film adaptation was innovative in the realistic acting of child actors and the use of ‘synch’ sound on location on the streets of Berlin.

The original context for the story stemmed partly from Kastner’s own life. He was born in 1899 and grew up in a small town rather like Emil’s home town, and like Emil he lost his father when he was young. He, too, then made his way to Berlin, where he worked as a writer. But we should note that not all the credit for the story can go to Kastner, for it was the head of a Berlin publishing house, Edith Jacobsen, that approached him, and she who suggested the idea of a children’s detective novel.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.

Story of Emil and the Detectives

The story concerns a boy called Emil who has to deliver money to 1…………………… in Berlin. He lives with his mother, who is a hairdresser and not well-off. On the journey, he meets someone who he thinks is strange, and while Emil is 2…………………… , the money disappears. When he gets to Berlin, he meets some 3……………………  and they help him to find the person who took the money. He does not want to report this theft because he is worried about some damage that he did to a 4…………………… and thinks he will get into trouble for that. and thinks he will get into trouble for that.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Choose the correct letter, A, B, C or D.

5. What point does the writer make about Emil and the Detectives in the fourth paragraph?

A. It says something important about adult behaviour.

B. It has a different outcome from most detective fiction.

C. The children are different from most real children.

D. The children are like the adults in other detective fiction.

6. The writer says that children particularly like fiction which

A. describes children being in control of events.

B. presents situations they are personally familiar with.

C. is read to them by adults in an enthusiastic way.

D. includes a large number of surprising events.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

7. The writer says that a feature of the book that was new at the time was

A. its focus on children’s opposition to adults.

B. its use of a city as the main setting for much of the action.

C. its portrayal of a child growing up in difficult circumstances.

D. its inclusion of more than one child detective.

Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading passage 1?

In boxes 8-13 on your answer sheet (page 163), write

TRUE if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN if there is no information on this

IELTS Academic Reading Test

8. The book is unusual because it has more than one narrator.

9. Some readers found it hard to understand the slang used by some characters.

10. Local dialect is a positive feature of some of the characters.

11. The film of the book had features that were unusual at the time.

12. Kastner based the whole story on real events in his life.

13. Kastner wrote the story and then sent it to a publisher.

IELTS Academic Reading Test


BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 452

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IELTS Academic Reading Test





5. D

6. A

7. C



10. TRUE

11. TRUE



IELTS Academic Reading Test

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