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Santa's 'better half'

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Bea Mengel held up Eric Carle's book, "Dream Snow," in front of 25 local children at the Clayton County Public Library System's headquarters branch in Jonesboro recently. But before she opened the book to begin reading, she posed a question.

"Do any of you know who this is?" Mengel asked as she pointed to the cover of the book. On the cover was a heavy-set man carrying a big, burlap bag in the snow.

"It's Santa!" several children exclaimed.

The library hosted its "Breakfast with Mrs. Claus" program on Tuesday morning for the third time in four years. The event featured Mengel, the library branch's youth services librarian, dressed as Mrs. Claus. Her costume included a long, red dress, a white apron, a red hat with white trim, a gray wig and gold, wire-framed glasses. Youth Services Assistant Diane Flores played the role of an elf, in a green and red top, blue pants and curled shoes.

"I got the idea for this when I was in a thrift shop [four years ago] and I saw this red skirt, and I thought, 'You know, that looks like something Mrs. Claus would wear,'" Mengel said. "Then I put the outfit together with the glasses, the apron and the hat, and we did it that first year just to see how it'd go. People liked it, so we continued doing it."

With the exception of 2007, "Breakfast with Mrs. Claus" has been an annual event at the headquarters library branch.

During the "Breakfast with Mrs. Claus" held on Tuesday, Mengel read "Dream Snow" and Monica Greenfield's "Waiting for Christmas" to the children who attended the event. Some of the children kept their gazes fixed on Mrs. Claus as she read. A few even leaned forward, as if they were hanging on every word she said.

"I'm excited because it's Mrs. Claus," said Jonesboro youth, Jordan Mackey, 2. "I told her I wanted a Christmas bicycle."

"She lives in a special place," said Isaiah Scott, 8, of Jonesboro. "I'm excited about this because I've never gotten to meet her before."

"She's beautiful. She was kind, and really playful with the children. It was very nice to meet her," said College Park resident, Kennedy Marsh, 9.

The children and Mrs. Claus also sang "Jingle Bells," and "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" between books. The children then went into an adjoining room and ate waffles that were provided by local Waffle House locations.

"It was good to have Waffle House here to provide some breakfast for everyone," said Riverdale resident, Ashanti Green, 14, who attended the event with her 2-year-old sister, Annisha Green. "Some people may not have breakfast every day because they can't afford it."

After the waffles, the children got to have their picture taken with Mrs. Claus and the elf, under an inflatable Christmas arch. After pictures were taken, the children received Beanie Babies, crayons and Christmas CDs.

"We wanted to do some kind of holiday program to encourage children to make use of the library -- something that makes for a warm, happy time that draws in people," Mengel said.