Book Review: Accounting Comes Alive: The Color Accounting Parable by Mark Robilliard and Peter Frampton

Two Big 4 accounting veterans wanted to find a better way to teach accounting. They believed that the teaching methods for accounting at today’s universities and colleges were needlessly difficult. This led them to invent Color Accounting, a visual method of conveying accounting concepts. The short book of 124 pages describes Color Accounting. It is a popular method of teaching complex concepts, good for visual learners that find traditional textbooks arduous.

Four Principles of Accounting

According to Robilliard and Frampton, accounting can be boiled down to four principles:

  1. Two-sidedness: This principle of accounting explains two sides of the accounting “coin”: the uses of funds and the sources of funds, compared to the two sides of a coin.
  2. Grouping explains how funds are organized into assets (short and long-term), liabilities, and owners’ contributions.
  3. Entity Theory: All transactions can be traced back to the sources of the funds, whether from the bank, owners’ contributions, or from vendors in the form of accounts payable.
  4. The accounting equation: The first three principles lead up to this overall guiding accounting principle stating assets equals liabilities plus equity.

The principles are told in a story form. A young man asks his grandfather “Pops” for advice on starting his own business. His grandfather proceeds to tell him the story of his own successful small general store and supermarket. Along the way, Pops draws storyboards of the accounting principles and other important concepts to visually portray the connection between assets, liabilities, equity and sources and uses of funds.

Simple but effective

Accounting majors in their third or fourth year will find the short novel simplistic. Or, perhaps, they may read it and wish they’d had such a book their first year. However, introductory accounting students may find this book a godsend, particularly those that find thick accounting text dry and unnecessarily verbose. It is to accounting what “The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement” was to Quantitative Management.

Who Should Read this Book

Business students are expected to understand basic accounting principles, but many do not. This book is an excellent aid for those that need to know the basics.

Students considering majoring in accounting as a major may find this book enlightening. It is an excellent introduction to general accounting concepts. This book provides a solid foundation for future accounting courses.

Entrepreneurs will also find this book useful. This book is perfect for those that wish to start their own business and need an introduction to such common practices such as accounts receivable, accounts payable, net discounts, etc. It also provides great cautionary advice such as depending too much on accounts receivable as money in the bank and not taking on too much on debt.

Overall, Accounting Comes Alive is educational albeit simplistic. It will make a great gift for your friends interested in learning about general concepts. With 4.3 out of 5 stars on Amazon, this book has been well-received by accounting experts and novices alike.


Robilliard, M and Frampton, P.(2011)  Accounting comes alive: The color accounting parable. Washington DD: Accounting Comes Alive International.

About Sara Huter

Sara Huter has over 15 years experience in the banking and energy industries, and over 10 years as an adjunct professor. Her work has been published for, the International Directory of Company Histories, the Encyclopedia of Business Insights: Global,, and Find out more about Sara at her Google+ Profile.