As you'd guess, the recalls of the lead-painted Doras and the drugged Aqua Dots have prompted holiday shoppers to ask storekeepers where toys come from.

"They ask every day," says Peter Berman, co-owner of the Children's Boutique, an independent toy store at 17th and Walnut. "They're confused and they see the word 'China' and they're very leery. We're trying to guide them."

By necessity, Berman has become an expert in locating country-of-origin statements, which are required by law on toys and often printed on the box.

Often, but not always. When the Daily News visited recently, we averted our eyes as Berman pawed open the little sleeper outfit on a Madame Alexander Pink Check Huggums doll to find an origin statement, in this case on the doll itself.

"China," he determined.

What Berman has learned is that Philadelphia shoppers seem to feel most at ease with toys that are made in the USA - he has a limited selection of wooden trains from Vermont and a scavenger-hunt game called Find It made in Washington state - or those manufactured in an Old World-y toy country, preferably Germany.

Children's Boutique buyers who are more hung up on toxins than country of origin are flocking to Miyim organic plush toys, made from unbleached cotton that's grown without chemicals then dyed using natural ingredients like cloves and gardenia seeds.

The Miyim organics are cute and not too expensive ($14 for a rooster rattle ring, $28 for a sleepy-looking plush hippopotamus), although they are made in China. A Miyim spokeswoman says they're manufactured in a company-owned factory that doesn't make anything else, and Berman says the country-of-origin label doesn't tend to bother his Miyim clientele.

The Children's Boutique also carries toys from the big two Mattel brands: Barbie and Hot Wheels. While they're made offshore, they're now rigorously policed, Berman says. "Mattel is not taking this lightly."

Shoppers who aren't appeased by his supportive toy counseling are finding refuge in literature. "Books seem to be a safe bet this season." *

-Becky Batcha