When PW caught up with Brian Floca by phone on Monday morning, less than an hour after the announcement that he’d won the 2014 Caldecott Medal, he admitted to still feeling “a little punch drunk.” Completely understandable, although he’d also had a little more time than the rest of the world to get used to the news: the phone call from the Caldecott committee came at 6:46 a.m., awakening him from what he described as “a deep, deep REM state of sleep.”

“I could see it was a call from Pennsylvania,” said the author-illustrator. “There was a part of me that really wanted to go back to sleep, and another part that thought it might be good news. And that got me to answer the phone. It was a little bit groggy, a little bit dreamlike, a little bit unreal, and just fantastic.” Floca said that the committee “stuck pretty close to the script. They introduced themselves, and they pronounced the words very clearly, so that I didn’t have to worry I was getting the wrong message or anything.”

The message: that Floca had won his first Caldecott Medal. In recent years, he’d received Robert F. Sibert Honors for three picture books – Lightship, Moonshot, and Ballet for Martha – and he added another to his tally on Monday morning, with Locomotive picking up a fourth Sibert Honor in addition to the Caldecott win. “I’ve been really grateful for the Sibert Honors I’ve won in the past,” said Floca, “and I’m grateful for this one as well. Any attention you get from librarians is great, welcome, and an honor. I’m happy for the book, happy that it will live a little longer and be seen by more people.”

After getting the call from the Caldecott committee, Floca received another, from Simon & Schuster v-p and publisher Justin Chanda. “He told me to try to enjoy the morning and enjoy the day,” said Floca. “I wasn’t sure if that meant going back to sleep or not.” He skipped the nap and put on a pot of coffee, called his parents, and spoke with his editor, Richard Jackson, whose eponymous imprint at Atheneum published Locomotive in September. Floca described their conversation as “gratifying and very rewarding,” and added, “He and I have been working together for 20 years now. We didn’t really need to say that much, to be honest.”

Next, Floca headed to the Brooklyn studio space he shares with a handful of other children’s book creators, where he watched the livestream of the awards announcements with Sergio Ruzzier. “Sergio asked, ‘How are you doing?’ ” when Floca arrived. “I told him, ‘Good. Actually, very good.’ We sort of talked in code there.”

As Floca told PW in a joint Q&A with Elisha Cooper, Locomotive took shape over four years. During that time, he changed course from creating a broader book about a steam locomotive to focus on a family from Omaha to California on the Transcontinental Railroad. “I think it helped that I didn’t make the book I thought I was going to make to make,” Floca said on Monday. “Once the book ended up being set on the Transcontinental Railroad, I had that whole time period and landscape to fall in love with, as well.”

With Locomotive, Floca said his goals were twofold. “Those engines themselves are such fascinating pieces of machinery. They’re really complicated on one level, but they’re also very understandable machines. I was hoping the book would visually convey how they work so that readers could go through the book and piece it together.” Second, he also aimed to provide a “sense of moving through a landscape and the landscape changing.”

Floca said that congratulatory e-mails and phone calls were already rolling in, but his mind is (at least partly) already on new books. “I’m busy at work on a couple of illustration projects and something I’ve written and illustrated that I’m working on with Dick Jackson,” he said. “[The Caldecott] is sort of a happy ending for all that we’ve done for Locomotive and all the work Simon & Schuster put into it, too.”

Although much excitement and cheering poured out on Twitter as the Caldecott, Newbery, and other awards were announced, the @brianfloca account kept out of the fray on Monday morning. Floca said, perhaps only half joking, “Maybe winning the Caldecott means I don’t have to tweet something.”

Click here to read our interview with 2014 Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo.