Terrier: Beka Cooper, Book 1

Common Sense Media says

Satisfying fantasy crime drama for tweens.





What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids may learn some things about policework -- investigating crimes, etc.

Positive messages

Despite the fact that, in the book's society, corruption and bribery are taken for granted, even encouraged, many characters are honorable, and most behave according to a certain moral code. Determination, hard work, and loyalty are rewarded; real evil is punished.

Positive role models

Beka is a strong, resourceful, loyal role model who never shies away from a challenge or responsibility. Beka's world is diverse, with characters of many different ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, and sexualities. Some of her best friends are criminals, but they still care about relationships.


Fighting, injuries, deaths, murders, child murders, child abuse, and slavery.


Mentions of prostitution, implication of sex, discussion of girls' "peaches" (i.e. breasts), some kissing.


Lots of swearing/slang specific to the book's world, which is translated in the included glossary. None of it includes words that are considered "bad" to us, but they're clear stand-ins for curses we all know.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drinking and drunkenness.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that one of the book's major plot elements involves a serial murderer of children. While none of these murders are directly described, this is a society in which abuse, enslavement, and murder of children is common. Adult characters also die; some of these deaths may spark strong emotional reactions. Characters have a complex social system in which police ("Dogs") and criminals ("Rats") co-exist -- and can even be friends ... unless certain lines are crossed. Beka is a strong female character who works hard, is fiercely loyal, and always puts duty first.

Parents say

Kids say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

Beka has grown up in the slums of the Lower City in Corus, the capital of Tortall. When she was 8, she helped the Lord Provost capture a gang of thieves, and he took her and her family under his wing. Now she's 16 and training to be one of the police guards (called Dogs) of the city. As a trainee (Puppy), she's assigned to the best Dogs in the Kennel, though they're reluctant to have her. But soon, through her unusual ability to hear the voices of the dead, she gets wind of two serial murderers: one hiring and then killing groups of men, the other kidnapping and murdering children. As she and her Dogs work to track down the murderers, gradually she earns their respect through her tenacity, which wins her the nickname "Terrier."

Is it any good?


Told by main character Beka through journal entries, this unusual combination of fantasy novel and police procedural is very satisfying. TERRIER is a rip-roaring good story with unusual elements, set in a world that author Tamora Pierce has been developing for decades. It makes a good introduction to Pierce's work for those who haven't read the earlier books.

Beka is a delightful heroine: painfully shy, modest yet exceptionally competent, eager to learn, and strongly empathetic toward the downtrodden people she grew up with. Pierce has made her reputation as a writer with strong heroines, which has turned her into a darling of those with feminist leanings. But it would be a mistake to pigeonhole her as a feminist author -- she's simply too good. Though boys are notorious for rejecting books with female protagonists, if they allow themselves to try this, they'll like it as much as Pierce's female fans will.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the society of Tortall. What era of real human history does it most resemble? In what other ways is it similar to and different from ours?

  • How can police and criminals be friends? What are the advantages and disadvantages of the relationships between the two groups in this society? What do you think of the way bribery is handled?

  • Families who've read the author's other books set in Tortall can talk about what makes this one different. Why do you think magic isn't the focus this time?

Book details

Author:Tamora Pierce
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Great girl role models
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Random House
Publication date:October 1, 2006
Number of pages:581
Read aloud:10
Read alone:11

This review of Terrier: Beka Cooper, Book 1 was written by

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

Find out more


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.

See more about how we rate and review.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 13 years old Written byDaine April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age
Teen, 15 years old Written bybbucrazykeeper15 February 10, 2009


Tamora Pierce is possibly the best teen fantasy writer of all time. I personally like her better than J.K. Rolling. Combined with the perfect amount of humor, morals, just good reading, and mystery, this book lets you imagine what it would be like to be a "puppy" (a young policemen) in "ancient times". As the main character is a girl, Beka, this is an especially good and inspiring read for any young female. I encourage all ages to read this incredible book.

Kid, 12 years old Written byangelface8881 April 9, 2008
AGENot rated for age

I loved this book

Tamora Pierce in my opinion is the best Teen Fantasy writer of all time. Her book "Beka Cooper Terrior" is my absolute all time favorite book by her.
Although I do believe it requires certain maturity, other than that it is a thrilling experiance.
This book is written in the journals of Beka Cooper. She tells the story of her addventures of becomeing a Dog, a person like a police officer those days. She is one of 5 children without a mother and father and was takin in my his majesty because of her heroic capture of criminals when she was only very young.
Beka learns alot about friendship, her mysterious bond with dust spinners, ghost pigions, pigions who carry the souls of the dead, and solves two of the biggest crimes ever to strike Tontrall.
Beka gets help from her trainers, friends and solves the mystery of the shadow snake, is he just a fairy tale or is someone now claiming the fear of the shadow snake as there own, and why is he killing inosent children in exchange for small tokens?
Beka also solves the ongoing crime of a power hungry, greedy cult putting people to death after they got him what he wanted, fire opals. They are precious gems that can hold magic and are very, very valuable.
Will Beka be able to do it on her own? Will she die? Who are these terriaable people commiting crimes? Why are they doing it? Will she ever become a Dog?
All of these questions will be answered but you have to read Tamora Pierce's book "Beka Cooper Terrior" in order to find out.


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Top Kids' Movies: An Essential Guide for Families