Erica Kornberg
June 17, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Even in the literary world, it’s possible to go into the family business. Pulitzer Prize winner William Kennedy (Ironweed) and his son, Brendan, 23, have produced two kids’ books — 1990’s Charlie Malarkey and the Belly-Button Machine and now Charlie Malarkey and the Singing Moose.

William Kennedy, 66, says work on the first book began long before it was published, when Brendan was only 4: “He was going to bed one night and his pj’s were open and his belly button was sticking out. I said, ‘Once there was a kid who woke up and his belly button was gone.’ It became a nightly chase to find out who took it.” The story evolved from that bedtime game.

Nineteen years later, “it’s still very much a collaboration,” says William, who is planning a third Charlie caper with his son. The children of Kennedy’s daughter Dana are also getting in on the act: Grandson Casey, 10, has an Elvis joke in the new book, and a tale by granddaughter Shannon, 8, “might really be something,” says a proud William, not sounding a bit surprised.

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