Florida Books, Youth Books, about Books

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Byline: Brandy Hilboldt Allport

Stacks of books. Heavy boxes packed with books. These two phrases describe my desk in the newsroom, the backseat and trunk of my car and every flat surface in my home. Reading for the 2012 Books page began during the last weeks of 2011 with Carmen Agra Deedy's "Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale" and halted with "Always Looking: Essays on Art by John Updike" edited by Christopher Carduff, a few hours before presses rolled for this edition.

Thousands and thousands of pages comprise a year's work. What pleasure. What pressure. As electronic publishing shifts into an even higher gear, the literary world sometimes feels unwieldy, but not one word ever seems unworthy of consideration. The final deadline for this year brings with it my list.

Best new novel by a Florida author: "American Ghost" by Janis Owens (Scribner, $25). A love story set in a small town unfolds amid long-kept secrets, violence and racial tension. It is historical fiction, but the plot includes a real-life account of the lynching of Claude Neal, which happened in Marianna during 1934. Owens' prose is precise without being terse and absolutely piercing.

Most likely to become a children's story-time staple: "Duck Sock Hop" written by Jane Kohuth and illustrated by Jane Porter. This rollicking rhyme tells the story of ducks wearing "socks with stripes ... socks with spots, socks with squares and socks with dots. …