Poetry Project

Poem: ‘Smart’ by Shel Silverstein

Marketplace Staff Apr 27, 2009
Poetry Project

Poem: ‘Smart’ by Shel Silverstein

Marketplace Staff Apr 27, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: To mark April being national poetry month we’re spending a couple of Mondays on the poetry of all things economic. A lot of you wrote to nominate “Smart” by Shel Silverstein. A poem about kids and money. So for some analysis, we took it to the source. Ms. Simms’ 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in Fullerton, Calif. They caught on pretty quickly that the hero’s not exactly the best with money.

Ms. Simms’ class: He gets less and less money when he thinks he’s getting more. He had $1, and now he only has five cents.

Here’s the whole thing. Ms Simms’ kids reading “Smart” from Shel Silverstein’s “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”


My dad gave me one dollar bill
‘Cause I’m his smartest son,
And I swapped it for two shiny quarters
‘Cause two is more than one!

And then I took the quarters
And traded them to Lou
For three dimes — I guess he didn’t know
That three is more than two!

Just then, along came old blind Bates
And just ’cause he can’t see
He gave me four nickels for my three dimes,
And four is more than three!

And then I took the nickels to Hiram Coombs
Down at the seed-feed store,
And the fool gave me five pennies for them,
And five is more than four!

And then I went and showed my dad,
And he got red in the cheeks
And closed his eyes and shook his head —
Too proud of me to speak!

RYSSDAL: From the mouths of 10-year-olds, bigger is not always better. That was Sarah Nascimento, Vadi Eghterafi, Victoria Vo, Semonne Brandt, Kevin Chou and the rest of Ms. Simms’ class at Arborland Montessori school in Fullerton, Calif. Next week, three poems about one thing: work.

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