To the public, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has written just one book, a 2007 policy piece about the future of green energy.
But to his family, the 2020 Democratic candidate and grandpa is much more prolific.
For the last 10 years, Inslee has written and illustrated one children’s book a year for his three grandkids. A number of the books focus on nature, the climate and the effects the warming Earth has on the environment. They are a physical — if not unique — manifestation of the 2020 candidate’s deep concern about climate change, the issue he has centered his campaign around — and a way he can personally teach his three grandchildren about the impact humans can have on the world around them.
“These books are more for fun and being able to read to your grandkids. That is a treasure, that is priceless and that is why we wrote the books,” Inslee told CNN on Tuesday.
The books were, until now, a private display of how intensely Inslee, who will appear in a CNN town hall Wednesday night, worries climate change. The candidate focuses on the issue at nearly every event he headlines and launched his campaign earlier this year because he believes he is “the only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation’s number one priority.”
While his pitch to voters can sometimes feel more doom and gloom — “We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last who can do something about it,” Inslee said in his announcement video — the books he writes to his grandchildren seek to uplift and inspire their help.
Inslee — “Bobo” to his grandchildren Brody, Chase, and Zoe — gives the books to the kids at Christmas. Inslee’s wife, Trudi — or, as the grandchildren call her, “Bee” — edits and publishes the books.
“I am responsible for (correcting) all the typos,” Trudi Inslee said with a laugh.
While the books often demonstrate Inslee’s love of nature, his latest book zeroes in on climate change in a detailed way. Titled “Elvis & the Elves: The Mystery of the Melting Snow,” it tells the story of Elvis’ attempts to get his friends to help stop the planet from warming before their snowman friend, Sammy, melts into nothing.
“They spotted a train carrying coal. It was Zoe’s train, and it was making a lot of smoke. As it passed, Sammy’s snow melted right off his snow body,” Inslee writes in the book, beneath a picture of a train passing an elf.
As Sammy melts, Elvis and his elf friends convince Zoe — named after his granddaughter — to let the elves build her an electric train and get rid of the coal powered locomotive. The new train helps reverse the warming and Sammy comes back to life.
“From elves and snowmen to plants and animals, we all are impacted by climate change,” reads the end of the book, which Inslee’s campaign will soon make available online. “We know removing one coal train from the tracks won’t solve this problem. It’s going to take a concentrated national mission to overcome this challenge.’
“These books could be something that grandparent or a parent might want to use to open the discussion with kids,” Inslee said. “The kids get it. They are closer to nature than they are. Thank goodness we have got them.”
Inslee’s Christmas book gifts began a decade ago. He noticed all the Santa figurines and statues on his mantle. He began to take photos of them and wrote a story — titled “Sammy and the Santas” — to go along with the pictures.
And thus, a tradition was born: The governor and his grandkids read the book every Christmas and the kids have to search the house for each Santa mentioned.
Inslee’s love of drawing and painting — the governor enjoys it so much, says Trudi Inslee, that he carries a watercolor set with him on the road — has also become a part of the endeavor; later books feature illustrated cartoons from the governor himself.
One of those books, titled “Bears in a Boat,” focuses primarily on the outdoors and a group of bears that paddled to the Washington State Capitol Building to receive an award from the bear governor named Chase — after his grandson.
“The books show you the power of the imagination,” Inslee said. “Until this day, Chase believes we are both governors. He actually believes he is the backup governor.”