Ten-year-old Nettle travels from Albany to Richmond with her older brother and sister in 1859, as a chance to see the South before the expected war and so that Brother Lockwood, a journalist, can report on slavery. Based on a diary of the author's great-grandmother, this picture-book account is presented as a letter, a poetic and very personal narrative in the voice of a perceptive, caring child confiding in a close friend her own age. Beginning with the train ride, everything is new. Trying to fathom the definition of slaves as three-fifths of a person, Nettle questions a maid at the hotel, observes living conditions, and finally goes to an auction where men, women and children are ordered to ""Jump!"" and are sold; "". . .two children our age clasped hands but were bought by different men, and the man in the white hat had to tear them apart."" Nettie's revulsion is so great that she becomes ill; the three have seen enough and, suffering bad dreams, return home, still pondering the deprivation and injustice meted out to the blacks. As in Dakota Dugout, last year's fine collaboration with Turner, Himler has provided soft black-and-white illustrations that strongly evoke the characters' concerns and emotions and their 19th-century milieu. Unfortunately, the tight, side-sewn gutter is inappropriate to the panoramic double spreads. However, it's a beautiful book, describing slavery as well as that bitter institution with immediacy and compassion.