Acrobats, giant telescopes and a hugging “cactus” were just some of the sights for book lovers who turned out in force Saturday at the University of Arizona to explore the Tucson Festival of Books.

Sunny the Cactus, mascot for Saguaro National Park, waved to the crowd at the National Park Experience Pavilion as a line of attendees waited to take a photo or get a hug.

David Scott was among the many readers who arrived early to see authors Jonathan Kozol and Natalia Petrzela’s presentation, “The Politics of Education and Inequality,” at Gallagher Theater. At least 50 stood in line behind him.

The always-popular Science City was filled with children by 11 a.m.

Wilson K-8 School had a table for its Lego Heads Robotics Club, drawing a crowd to watch demonstrations and participate in challenges.

The UA Physiology Club’s table was loaded with plastic models of the human body, while College of Medicine students provided hands-on CPR training a short distance away.

A man held his small daughter so she could peer through a telescope, while nearby, a family sat across from one other on the “Architecture Teeter Totter,” a large, yellow beam.

Wildcat Water Lab volunteers gave children the hands-on opportunity to investigate water quality. And at the back of Science City, child acrobats performed on a stage.

Diana Rodriguez and her children stood at the edge of the festival’s large food tent, deciding what to eat.

This is their fourth year attending the festival, and Rodriguez says it gets better every year.

The event features 250 exhibitors stretching across the UA Mall, along with hundreds of author presentations and signings on the two-day schedule.

Local favorite J.A. Jance drew a crowd at her morning book signing and a full house during the Southwest Women of Mystery panel with authors Margaret Coel and Anne Hillerman.

At the Cinco Puntos Press tent, local author Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford talked about her new book, “My Tata’s Remedies,” which recently won a Pura Belpré Award at the 2016 Youth Media Awards, after winning the 2015 Southwest Book Award.

A former bilingual schoolteacher, Rivera-Ashford says people at the festival always ask which of her books is her favorite.

“I tell them that my books are like my children,” she said. “I love them all the same for each of their differences.”

Contact reporter Caitlin Schmidt at cschmidt@tucson.com or 573-4191. On Twitter: @caitlincschmidt

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