There were stories of fishes granting wishes and rattlesnakes losing their rattles.

There were discussions on the intricacies of chocolate and the best sugar to use when baking cookies.

There were paper rockets flying through the air and children trying to make night lights from binding clips, lithium batteries and plastic cups.

And there were oceans of people flooding the University of Arizona Mall, hoping to hear a great tale and maybe meet their favorite authors.

The fourth annual Tucson Festival of Books began Saturday with readings, author discussions, music performances and local food.

The festival continues today from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the UA Mall - and by the time it ends, it will have hosted an expected 100,000 book lovers hearing 450 authors and panelists and seeing more than 250 exhibitors.

"You're getting to see the authors whose books you've actually read and put a voice to what you're reading," said Sue Ellen Schuerman, who was waiting in line to see author Lisa See.

The auditorium filled to capacity before Schuerman could get a seat. But she found an upside in the disappointment: The festival is proof, she said, that people still love books.

"A lot of people say reading is dead," she said. "This shows you that's not true."

Look - there's clifford

Kasinda Martinez's eyes lit up while she discussed her favorite book character.

The 5-year-old spotted Clifford the Big Red Dog across from the tent where she had just finished making a bookmark for sick children at the UA's Steele Children's Research Center.

She and her parents, Angel and Kendra Martinez, walked into the crowd for a meet-and-greet.

It was the family's first time at the festival, and Angel couldn't choose what they liked best.

"The books, the environment and, truthfully, the weather," he said, "My daughter loves books."

Her favorite Clifford story, Kasinda offered, is "Clifford's Manners."

In addition to meeting some of their favorite characters, children got their faces painted, gathered free balloons and listened to stories in the festival's busy children's area.

A storyteller on one stage told of a fish who granted wishes to a husband with a greedy wife, and a baby rattlesnake who learned the perils of receiving its rattle too soon.

"I got to make something"

Korbin Edge, 9, stood on the grass in the middle of the Mall, proud of his accomplishment.

He had made a night light with two plastic cups, two LED lights and a lithium battery. It was another step on his path toward becoming an electrical engineer.

"I like engineering because you get to actually make motors and lights like I just did," he said. "I actually got to make something."

At the Kino School tent, Dorian Mogge, 9, concentrated on his "stomp" rocket.

Dorian, and other children and adults, made the paper devices and stuck them into a tube attached to a soda bottle. Someone would stomp on the bottle, making the rocket fly.

Dorian tried to improve his rocket so it would fly farther.

"The problem was with the wind, plus I saw air holes," said Dorian, a student at the school. "When it came down, a piece flexed upward like a wing."

When asked how that affected the rocket's flight, he couldn't find the words to explain it in detail.

"It's kind of hard to understand," he said.

"She can bake anything"

Bud Rosenbluth isn't afraid to brag about his wife's baking skills.

"She's a very good baker," Rosenbluth said. "She makes mostly cookies, but she can bake anything."

That didn't stop his wife, Joan, from attending a session with author and chef Alice Medrich.

"I was curious to see what she looks like and what she said," Joan Rosenbluth said.

Medrich discussed the finer points of chocolate, including its background, composition and how it affects recipes. She also answered questions from the audience, including one from Rosenbluth about sanding sugar onto cookies.

"I said, 'What about baker's sugar?' " she said. "She said, 'Oh, that's good.' "

The Rosenbluths, who have been married for 52 years, said they like the book festival because it's a fun event that supports literacy.

Plus, Joan said, "It's a Tucson happening."


• What: 2012 Tucson Festival of Books

• When: Today from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

• Where: University of Arizona campus

• Cost: Admission to the festival and parking are free

• What you'll find: More than 450 authors and presenters, food and entertainment, and Science City.


fest online

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Sunny and warmer; no chance of rain

Wind: SE 5-10 mph; gusts to 15 mph

Where to find a parking space

Park in any campus garage or Zone 1 lot. Avoid meters covered in blue bags, fire zones and nearby neighborhoods. See map on Page A8.

Contact reporter Jamar Younger at or 573-4115.