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Routledge Education September Author of the Month: Trisha Lee

Routledge Education is delighted to announce that Trisha Lee, author of Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories, is our September 2015 Author of the Month.

Trisha Lee is a professionally trained theatre director, with a wide range of practical and academic skills. She is passionate about the importance of storytelling and drama in children’s lives, particularly in the early years. In 2002 Trisha founded MakeBelieve Arts, a theatre and education company offering innovative, high-quality theatre and education programmes to develop the creative potential of children aged 2–15.

Trisha's delightful new book, Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories, was published by Routledge in August.

Trisha Lee

Trisha Lee is the Artistic Director and founder of theatre and education company MakeBelieve Arts. In 2007 to 2010 she was appointed Social Enterprise Ambassador by the cabinet office based on the strength of her business model, and in 2010 she was invited to Downing Street to meet Gordon Brown for a celebration of Social Enterprise. In 2013 Trisha was the end of conference speaker for the USA National Association for the Education of Young Children in Washington DC. She has recently returned from a worldwide trip where she worked with children in a range of capacities, from townships in South Africa, to reading clubs in Vietnam, a local school in Hong Kong before delivering sessions with teachers in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and the USA.

Trisha is passionate about education. Her school days were not golden, and she was often in trouble for fidgeting or talking too much. Having spent more time in the corridor than the classroom, she left secondary education at the age of 16 with very few qualifications. The one thing she did take from her schooling was a passion for theatre. Trisha was always in the school productions, and drama lessons were the one place she felt alive.

Having left school and home at this early age, she set up a theatre company in Plymouth and funded it on her dole money, alongside support from a local community group who were a bit taken back by this enterprising teenager. The show toured to youth clubs in the local area and presented a gritty reality of life for young people in the 80s. Her tenacity won her a place on a degree course at Dartington College of Arts, despite her lack of qualifications and it was while she was studying here that her passion for work with children and young people developed. She has an MA from Goldsmiths University on the Process of Production and is currently studying towards a second MA at Bath Spa on Writing for Children and Young People.

Making the connection between theatre work and her interest in the fantasy play of children, Trisha has developed approaches that cross both fields, so when she came across the work of Vivian Gussin Paley it was “like coming home”. Her recent publication Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories tracks her journey, and the learning she uncovered along the way.

Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories

The Helicopter Stories approach transforms classrooms into theatres and puts the magic back into childhood. Written by Trisha Lee, the founder of MakeBelieve Arts, this practical guide explores how stories and fantasy play help young children make sense of the world.

Helicopter Stories is tried, tested and proven to have a significant impact on children's literacy and communication skills, their confidence and emotional development. Based on the work of Vivian Gussin Paley, this book explores an approach to early childhood education that is gaining international recognition.

Covering all aspects of Helicopter Stories, Trisha Lee explains how to introduce the approach to children for the first time, collect their stories and then bring their ideas to life by acting them out. Full of anecdotes and practical examples, the book covers a wide range of topics from dealing with sensitive issues in children's stories to encouraging unwilling children to get involved.

"Trisha Lee plays a magical role in classrooms all over the world," Vivian Gussin Paley writes in the forward. "With only pen, paper and masking tape in hand, she can turn any group of children into an acting company. The children become storytellers, actors, and audience, and their teachers emerge as scribes, narrators and stage managers: the classroom is transformed into the make-believe worlds that children love best." 

Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories will be essential reading for all those who want to support children's learning in a way that is fun, engaging and proven to work. 

Helicopter Stories

Helicopter Stories is, in theory, a simple approach. The teacher or workshop leader sits next to the child and scribes their story word for word. There is no need to lead or ask questions, the teacher simply records the story as accurately as possible.

When the story is finished, it is read back to the child so they can decide which character they would like to become. Once several stories have been collected the class gather around a makeshift, masking tape stage and act the stories out. The other characters are selected in turn from around the stage, so that all children have a chance to be involved.

Author Interview

Why did you decide to write Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories?

My aim through writing Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories was to create a book that would support teachers and nursery practitioners to incorporate Vivian Gussin Paley’s work into their classrooms on a regular basis. I believe wholeheartedly in the value of Helicopter Stories, and the benefits this approach offers to ALL children. I wanted to write a book that would give practitioners the confidence to say, “I can do that,” and then to have a go at it the very next day.

What's the one thing you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories will give readers the curiosity to gather the children they work with around a taped out stage, and empower them with a strong enough belief in the approach that they begin Storytelling and Story Acting immediately, and change their settings forever.

Is there anything you'd like to highlight about this topic or your book in particular?

Sometimes a child will be shy, or find it harder to take to the stage and fly across it like the other children. But Helicopter Stories contains within it an ethos that is child centred. Based on the work of Vivian Gussin Paley, it supports all children regardless of ability; whether those are children with special educational needs (SEN) or English as an Additional Language, or children with less confidence than the others, this process helps enable everyone to find their voice in their own way.

What's a common misconception about this topic/subject area that you'd like to clear up?

Some children might look as if they are not moving when they first take on a role during Story Acting, but close attention will often reveal the smallest of gestures a child is making as they find their confidence to bring the character to life.

During Helicopter Stories, every action or word is accepted. If a child is playing a tiger, ask how the tiger moves, but there is no need to show the child how to make these movements. Taking a moment to watch the way they choose to represent each character, and recognising these, however small, is much more empowering than trying to get them to mirror our big adult gestures.

When we stop leading in our grown up way, we open our eyes to the possibilities presented by the children. A shy child who is asked to show how a tiger moves, might tense their fingers to form claws, an almost imperceptible movement, but once this is noticed it can be shared with the class.

Over the years of working in this way, of allowing children to lead, rather than forcing the learning upon them, I have seen children finding their voice, or the confidence to move, and I have heard the beginnings of so many novels waiting to emerge.

Start Exploring Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories

Save 20% on Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories

  • Princesses, Dragons and Helicopter Stories

    Storytelling and story acting in the early years, 1st Edition

    By Trisha Lee

    Stories and fantasy play engage all young children and help them to draw connections and make sense of the world. MakeBelieve Arts Helicopter Stories are tried, tested and proven to have a significant impact on children’s literacy and communication skills, their confidence and social and emotional…

    Paperback – 2015-08-11

Take a Look at Trisha Lee's Other Title

Save 20% on Books by Trisha Lee

Receive a 20% discount* on the books by Trisha Lee! Simply enter promotional code AOTM5 when ordering online at

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Previous Authors of the Month

August Author of the Month: Alison Wilcox

July Author of the Month: Diane Montgomery

June Author of the Month: Janet Evans

May Author of the Month: John Foster

April Author of the Month: Mel Ainscow