The fate of that ten-dollar gold piece belonging to sixth grader Willie Jasper and the deliberately old style drawings by Douglas Gorsline will keep the paddle wheels turning for those who tend to doze off when stuffed with historical minutiae--even such attractive matter as the race between the steamers Natchez and Robert E. Lee on the Mississippi in 1870. Willie Jasper travels with his father (and his ten-dollar gold piece) from St. Louis to New Orleans on the steam packet, Creole Belle. It's a fine trip with pilothouse gossip about the recent ""War Between the States""; shipping news and political talk; grand food and appointments; stop-offs at battlesites; and those nights with ""frogs croaking. . . and the river gurgling by."" On the trip upriver Willie Jasper ships on the steamer he's bet his gold piece on, the Natchez, now locked in contest with the Robert E. Lee--whose wily captain takes on fuel in mid-river. The Natchez is behind all the way but willie Jaspers learns to lose in style. Much information in every lap--perhaps too much--but still, it's an attractive package.