First up is The Wind Singer. This novel was written by William Nicholson and published in 2000. It follows the story of a young girl (Kestrel), her twin brother (Bowman), and their none-too-bright companion (Mumpo). The three live in a meritocratic society known as Aramanth.
"Using a system based on colour classifications, the governing Examiners dictate what people can wear, where they can live and what jobs they can do. The levels are grey, maroon, orange, scarlet and white, with grey the lowest and white the highest. The Emperor is the only person allowed to wear blue." - Wikipedia*
*Link contains spoilers
At the start of the story, we learn that Kestrel is not satisfied with this type of society and their endless exams, so she rebels in class. The teacher sends her to the back of the desks (as they are arranged by intelligence) to sit with the least intelligent student, the messy and slow Mumpo. This angers her and she flees the class. It is here that she finds herself in the company of the Emperor himself who, she comes to learn, holds no power at all. Rather, the man pulling the strings behind the Emperor is none other than the High Examiner. The Emperor entrusts to her an ancient map and tells her that to rid their city of the evil, she has to restore the voice to the Wind Singer - an object that is found in the city arena.
Kestrel, Bowman, and Mumpo (who is head-over-heels for Kestrel and follows her like a puppy) must follow the map, face countless perils, and attempt to restore the voice.
The next novel is one I'd love to get my hands on again - The Great Good Thing by Roderick Townley. This novel was first published in 2001 and tells the tale of Sylvie, a twelve-year-old princess... from a book! Yes, this novel is a story about a story. In the tale, Sylvie is promised to marry a prince, but she tells him that before she is to marry, she must do one "Great Good Thing." The tale is never fully explained, but there is no lack of colorful excitement in this book!
Sylvie's life is dull; she lives the same story over and over - that is, when a reader comes along. Which is practically never. When at last they finally have another reader, Sylvie is so excited and curious that she breaks the first rule - she looks up at the reader. This causes her lady-in-waiting to faint and all sorts of mayhem ensues, causing the reader to laugh with joy. When she finishes the book, she flips right back to the beginning - something that has never happened before. The young girl continues to read the book day after day until her brother, attempting to make the pages look old against his sister's will, accidentally burns the book.
Sylvie, her parents, and a couple of other characters manage to escape into the girl's memory where they live in her dreams and through her retelling of the story to her own children. When she passes on, they escape once more - this time into the memory of their reader's daughter.
I'll stop here and keep the ending to myself. Suffice it to say, this book left a great impression on me. So, just what is "The Great Good Thing?" You'll have to read it and find out.
If you ever happen to come across either of these books, don't hesitate to pick them up. In fact, buy them if you have the chance - you'll want to once you experience them for yourself. They are unique and inspiring stories that will endure through the ages, if only more people will pick them up and embark on the journey.