I admire the courage and hard work it takes to write a children's book. Good children's literature captivates both young and adult readers. Even the simplest story, well told, endears itself to any age reader. However, children's literature requires a strong vision and an even stronger set of writing skills than fiction writing for adults. Adults can fill-in, excuse and overlook weak spots, but children need seamless blending of skill and vision. They deserve writing that is crafted for them, but has deeper levels that can resonate for them over time. This author shows promise, but Catching Santa (The Kringle Chronicles, Book I) falls short of that future potential. There are many passages that show strength and imagination, but more that simply lie before you, gasping for direction, depth and dimension. I wanted this book to succeed, and I believe the next one in the series will, if the author puts more effort into developing sympathetic characters and refining his pacing. A strong editor could easily assist this author by pointing out the weaknesses and bolstering the strengths; there is potential here. Mark Franco can become a significant young adult author, particularly for boys, but he needs polishing and fine tuning. He is closer than most to being a solid writer, but he needs a firm hand and honest critique to be the writer I think he can be.As others have noted, the first half to two-thirds of the book move slowly without any real insight into the characters or the main plot narrative. Then, suddenly, the book is galloping away with scenes of warfare in what appears, finally, to be a fight between good and evil. Mythic elements are thrown into a suburban setting and time becomes a tool to be manipulated – all without any warning. The groundwork for these possibilities was tenuous at best. To make matters worse, there is a sudden, surprise ending that hits the reader with a heavy implication that this may be a heavily veiled Christian-oriented theme. It could be that this is not the intended message, but the theme lingers at the end nonetheless. Where it came from or why it is there is hard to pinpoint.Good versus Evil is not, and should not be seen as, an exclusively Christian battle. If the author did not intend this, I hope he will model his next volume in the series on a clearer platform. Images of high-tech war are not compatible with the values of a faith built on the peace and tolerance. If this sense of religious messaging is intended, I hope the author will make it clearer because the series target audience needs to be clearer. We know Santa is derived from Saint Nicolas, but the Santa most folks relate to now is an almost secular, good-natured fellow with magical abilities. This book strikes a tone that is not quite religious, but not quite secular; it is as if the author hasn't decided which way to go. It took me months to finish reading what should have been a light read, partly because the characters failed to capture my sympathy and partly because the pacing was uneven. There is a heavy-handed insistence in making the reader aware of how tech savvy these young people are. I fear references to Wikipedia and Skype and currently popular aspects of the internet will date this book faster than its relevance to current tastes can bolster its relevance. Better to have kept references to them more generic rather than named programs, sites or services. Well-heeled suburban kids will identify with the smart phones, the computers and using email, instant messaging and Skype, but not all children will. The gender treatment was uneven as well. The boys talk about how smart and brave the girls are, but very little opportunity is given for the girls to show those traits. The main character seems well immersed in technology and the language of warfare, which becomes a primary feature of the last part of the book. That may be expected of a teenager and even a pre-adolescent male, but I wonder how it will fare with younger, female readers.There is certainly a thread of darkness throughout the book. Unresolved issues like disappearing children, parents with hidden talents or agendas make for some gaping holes in the narrative. There was a sense of too many threads left dangling, no cathartic growth for the characters. That said, the author did conceive a novel approach to the Santa myth and did lay the groundwork for what could be a good series for young adults if he will spend time smoothing out the pacing and developing these characters into people we care about. I think Marco is an author to watch. First efforts are not always dependable gauges for success. There is talent here, enough that I look forward to seeing if the next book in the series is stronger from lessons learned for both the author and his characters.